IF there was one coach that delivered above and beyond in 2022 then it was Rohan Smith.
Following the departure of Richard Agar, Smith was appointed as head coach after an interim period under Jamie Jones-Buchanan.
Though the Australian had spent some time coaching in the UK with the Bradford Bulls, this was relatively short-lived so Smith’s appointment at Headingley took a number of people by surprise.
After CEO Gary Hetherington had undertaken a mission to Australia to recruit a new boss, Smith was handed a three-year deal.
The effect was immediate and within weeks the Australian had transformed Leeds, so much so that a run of seriously impressive results had the West Yorkshire side in a Super League Grand Final.
How does a coach turn around a club in such a transformative way in such a short space of time? Well, the Leeds players’ verdict on Smith is a unanimous one.
“He knows what he’s brought to my game. He’s brought a bit of consistency to my game and I think I’m training to a higher standard and I owe him a lot for that,” Blake Austin told League Express.
“He lets everyone in our squad know who they are, he’s been brilliant and he’s a pleasure to work under.
“Rohan has drilled it into us that what we do one week doesn’t affect next week and it’s important to take each day and each week as it comes.”
For Harry Newman, it’s the free-playing style of Smith that the Australian has installed that he is impressed with.
“The ability to play freely, I think he’s done that with everyone. As a team, he’s brought out our strengths and we entertain the crowd whilst doing it.
“With the new system, the lads have been working hard and hopefully we will see the rewards of that at the start of the season.”
One man who has moved to Headingley and who has worked with Smith before at the Norths Devils is Nene MacDonald.
And the Papua New Guinea international waxed lyrical about Smith’s character – on and off the field.
“I love his coaching methods, he wants to play footy. He wants to play with the ball, have fun and not be too structured and I love playing in that way,” MacDonald said.
“I love playing rugby league and his coaching style and how he gets the boys prepared is class.
“He’s approachable and you can talk him to off the field so it’s good to be back under him and that’s why I enjoyed playing under him before.”
Sam Lisone also knows Rohan Smith from when the two were at the New Zealand Warriors with the former acknowledging the intelligence of his new boss.
“I know how he works and how he looks at his game,” Lisone said. “He’s really smart and I’m really keen to get out there and enjoy my footy under him.”