Leeds Rhinos’ long-serving chief executive Gary Hetherington explains problems and “tough decisions” for Rohan Smith during Super League 2023

LEEDS RHINOS’ long-serving chief executive Gary Hetherington has explained the problems and “tough decisions” for Rohan Smith during Super League 2023.

The Rhinos finished outside the play-offs after an inconsistent season and in terms of Leeds’ disappointing season in 2023, Hetherington has provided explanations for that, as well as hinting at further reinforcements that will come through the Headingley doors in the next few weeks.

Leeds’ chief executive has also explained the mitigating factors for head coach Rohan Smith for such an indifferent year.

“Like a lot of clubs, last season was disappointing for Leeds Rhinos and it is important we can review the reasons for that disappointing season, have a clear understanding of it and a plan to put right what needs to be put right and I think we are pretty strong in all those areas,” Hetherington told League Express.

“The significant thing is that when Rohan Smith came in just 18 months ago, he inherited a squad of players and a rugby league department staff. That backroom staff has changed significantly over the last 12 months.”

Hetherington also gave an update on recruitment.

“And now it is very much his staff that Rohan surrounds himself with and the same is starting to happen with the team. He inherited the team and retained the players he wanted to retain, extend some in some cases but we are also in the process of recruiting where we have got gaps to fill.

“That recruitment process is very live, we are hoping to make some announcements in the next few weeks coupled with the fact that we have got an outstanding crop of young players who are looking to make their own way into the team next year.”

Hetherington also explained how all 11 players that were out of contract heading into the 2023 Super League season wanted to stay at Headingley initially – something which Smith had to contend with and resolve.

“We always knew it would be a difficult season, we had 11 players going into the season that were out of contract at the end of the year.

“It would have been easy to re-contract them because they all wanted to stay but that would not necessarily have been in the best interests of the future in the team and club. Those are the tough decisions that Rohan made.

“Some players have been retained and others have been released and that has enabled us the flexibility to bring in replacements and that is the process we are currently in.

“We have got the best crop of outstanding young players we have had for 20 years but we clearly need some replacements in our first-team, experienced quality players need to plug some gaps and that is what is focusing our attention. Hopefully, we can complete our squad in the next few weeks.”

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