FORMER Great Britain and England player Tony Smith hopes to help the next generation of talent reach the Leeds Rhinos first team.
Smith, who played for Castleford, Wigan and Hull FC and earned 14 international caps between 1995 and 2000 – featuring in the World Cups in those years – was last week appointed as Leeds’ new Academy head coach.
He takes over from Chev Walker, who has joined the first-team staff under Rohan Smith ahead of the 2023 season.
Tony Smith spent eight years coaching Castleford’s Academy side, as well as coaching Wakefield in Super League and most recently being on the staff at Dewsbury Rams, and he hopes to use all his experience to the benefit of the Rhinos.
“I have been involved in youth development for the last ten years and to end up at this club really excites me,” he said.
“If you look at the players that Leeds have produced over the last 25 years it shows that they are doing something right.
“As well as helping the players be the best they can on the pitch, it’s also about developing them as people and the resources and the staff we have here at the club gives us the best opportunity to do that.
“From a coaching point of view what’s really pleasing is seeing a young lad make his debut, especially when you have played a part in that.
“I have been involved in the game for the last 40 years and I want to make a difference and pass on some of my experience and also bring an energy and something different to these young players that I will be coaching.
“After packing in playing, being part of the development of new players is the next best thing and it excites me to help them grow as people and players.”
Leeds’ player pathway development manager, John Bastian, added: “Tony Smith fits all the criteria we were looking for.
“He’s got a wealth of experience not only as a player in Super League, but he’s coached at Super League level and has spent a lot of years working with young people during his time with Castleford.
“You can gain an understanding of somebody’s interest and what they actually want to achieve, just by their energy and their enthusiasm and certainly that comes across very strongly with Tony.”