Rohan Smith said he was “proud and privileged” to be a part of Leeds Rhinos’ success after reaching the Super League Grand Final.
Leeds are heading to Old Trafford for the first time in five years after stunning Wigan Warriors on Friday night with a 20-8 semi-final win.
It continues a remarkable turnaround since Smith joined the club in April, when Leeds were near the bottom of the table and a shot at the Super League title looked highly improbable.
“I’m really proud,” said the Rhinos head coach. “Personally I don’t know what to say or feel other than being really proud and privileged to be part of it.”
Smith took a rare moment to reflect on his journey since leaving North Devils to take charge at Headingley.
“I was coaching Norths six months ago and the last game I coached there might have been 300 people there,” he said ahead of the prospect of leading out his team at a packed Old Trafford next Saturday.
“I spent four years at Norths with people who I would consider to be brothers, and to win a Premiership with them meant a lot.
“I don’t like to compare or rank things but that was a special moment out there, the way the fans have shown me respect.
“Most of them wouldn’t have had a clue who I was other than Tony’s nephew or Brian’s son. They’ve taken me in and given me a shot so I respect that a lot.”
In the DW Stadium semi-final, Leeds’ defence was crucial in seeing out heavy pressure in the first half to only trail 4-2 at the break, before firing in the second half and winning the match through a Jarrod O’Connor try and James Bentley’s double.
“I think our goalline defence has been very good for a period of time now,” said Smith. “There’s a lot of trust and belief, everyone is calm and relaxed and doing their job.
“There’s a belief in the group that we’ll find a way through it and we did.”