The Garry Schofield Column: Who Ian Blease should appoint as Leeds Rhinos coaches

CONGRATULATIONS to Ian Blease on landing a big job at one of the biggest Rugby League clubs going.

But how he could have done without that dismal defeat for Leeds at Hull FC on Saturday as he settles into his new office at Headingley.

It’s piled the pressure on Rohan Smith, and surely the movers and shakers at the club can see things just aren’t working under the Australian.

For me, chairman Paul Caddick should step in and give the bulk of the Rhinos supporters what they have been calling for.

Unlike with their last choice of coach, Leeds have made an excellent appointment as their new sporting director, however.

Ian is a real Rugby League man. Having been a player, an agent and an administrator, he knows the game inside out, and he knows many people within it.

He also has a strong business background, which has been shown in his ability to get the most out of the resources available to him at Salford.

There will be a lot already in Ian’s in tray, the coaching situation included, with plenty more to come.

I know from experience that when you are representing this club, everyone wants a piece of you.

The way society is these days, that’s even more the case, and when you look at the modern-day Leeds Rhinos, you realise just what a huge operation Ian will be playing his part in looking after.

It’s not just rugby, either, but that’s at the pinnacle, and that’s the thing that really has to be right.

Leeds need fans, and the fans want to see a successful side, and be entertained in the process.

That clearly hasn’t been the case since the break-up of the last great Headingley team led by Brian McDermott.

No Super League title since 2017, one Grand Final since then, and only one Challenge Cup final in nine seasons.

Of course the pandemic meant the fans weren’t able to attend as Leeds edged out Salford, from whom they have since taken Andy Ackers and Brodie Croft, and now Ian.

And I’m sorry Salford supporters, but I hope Paul Rowley follows.

While Richard Marshall’s spell as successor to Ian Watson when he moved to Huddersfield at the end of 2020 didn’t work out, Ian then picked a good ‘un when he selected Paul.

He had worked really well with Watto, who as well as Wembley, of course took Salford to the Grand Final of 2019.

The pair of them put together a talented squad on a tight budget, with the style of rugby very easy on the eye.

That has been continued under Paul, and while there haven’t been any finals during his reign, given his resources, he is doing a fine job. Just look at that win at Warrington on Friday.

A club like Leeds should be much closer to reaching finals than they have been, and I think I speak on behalf of a lot of fans when I comment on the Rohan Smith situation.

Ian knows there will always be big expectations at Leeds, as there should be, and I just can’t see things getting better with Rohan at the reins.

My dream coaching duo would be Paul Rowley with Danny McGuire alongside him.

Look at Wigan, where Matt Peet has former players Sean O’Loughlin and Tommy Leuluai to work with.

They know the club and what makes Wigan tick, and that’s the case with Danny at Leeds. And he’s certainly served his apprenticeship as an assistant.

I also think current assistant coach Chev Walker, another who is Leeds through and through, has a lot to offer.

As for Salford, even allowing for their encouraging form, these will be concerning times, because Ian Blease is a hard act to follow.

First published in League Express newspaper, Issue 3,435 (June 17, 2024)

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