Hull KR and Leeds Rhinos reaction: Smith family in limelight - but will Tony join Rohan at Headingley?

After the thrills and spills of the Easter weekend, it was almost too quiet in the world of rugby league.

Tony Smith will leave Hull KR at the end of the season. (Picture: SWPix.com)
Tony Smith will leave Hull KR at the end of the season. (Picture: SWPix.com)

There is always a lull after the traditional double-header but it felt like the calm before the storm.

Little did the rugby league public know that there was a storm brewing at Craven Park, 65 miles east of Headingley where Leeds Rhinos were preparing to unveil their new head coach.

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The day should have belonged to Rohan Smith but instead he shared the limelight with uncle Tony after the Hull KR boss dropped a bombshell in his weekly press conference.

Tony Smith after last year's play-off victory over Warrington. (Picture: SWPix.com)

As the media prepared to ask about the upcoming fixture against Wakefield Trinity and the wider picture in Super League, the 55-year-old took the floor and revealed that he will be moving on once his current deal expires at the end of this season.

The shock announcement caught everybody off guard, not least club officials who had been expecting Smith to sign a 12-month rolling contract.

The Yorkshire Post understands the club were encouraged by the contract negotiations and there was optimism about a positive resolution right up until Smith informed the players of his decision.

That moment came after training on Wednesday and there was a palpable sense of shock in the room as Smith delivered the news.

Tony Smith during a training session at Craven Park. (Picture: SWPix.com)

The players and coaching staff were the first to know followed by Rovers owner Neil Hudgell minutes before Smith joined the Zoom press conference.

Chief executive Paul Lakin, meanwhile, found out through Hudgell with Smith already in the middle of making his decision public.

As Smith explained his reasoning, it became increasingly clear that he does not see eye to eye with Lakin, the club's chief decision-maker since returning to Craven Park in late 2020.

"I haven't been able to have the influence I'd like in the entire organisation and sometimes that happens within organisations," said Smith.

Rohan Smith during his time with Norths Devils. (Picture: Leeds Rhinos)

"Not everybody is best friends and some people operate better without other people around and I'm hoping that's the case.

"I don't want this club to suffer in any way, shape or form. I don't think we're all connected up exactly how we need to be.

"It's not healthy for the club and it's not healthy for me either."

For fans dreaming about a potential trip to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the Challenge Cup final and another crack at Old Trafford later in the year, it was a crushing blow.

Vibrant and exciting with a youthful core, Hull KR are unrecognisable from the team Smith inherited in June 2019.

A Super League semi-final appearance hinted at the club's potential but Smith would tell you he was only scratching the surface.

It was not meant to end like this, in the aftermath of a fifth straight win in Smith's 500th Super League game no less.

The same supporters that cheered their side to victory in the derby last Friday - a second successive sell-out crowd at Craven Park - have been left to worry about what comes next.

Uncertainty reigns as rugby league's version of the transfer window prepares to open on May 1.

Players on the market will be reluctant to commit to Rovers until a successor is named, while those already at the club will be wondering what a future without Smith looks like.

Wednesday's news was met by widespread disappointment and anger from some fans over the way Smith handled the situation.

Smith joining his nephew at Leeds at the end of the year would add insult to injury.

The former Rhinos boss made protestations to the contrary during his press conference but some remain unconvinced.

Smith was the man who kicked off Leeds' golden era in the mid-2000s and is viewed by many as the perfect mentor for Rohan as he takes his first steps into coaching at the top level, perhaps in a director of rugby role.

That would go some way to appeasing Rhinos fans who are concerned about Rohan Smith's lack of experience.

It is the 40-year-old's first head coach role in Super League or the NRL, although he did enjoy a brief spell in charge of Bradford Bulls and is fresh from a successful stint with Norths Devils - Brisbane Broncos’ feeder club.

After serving his apprenticeship in the background at New Zealand Warriors, Newcastle Knights, Sydney Roosters, Penrith Panthers and Gold Coast Titans, he feels ready for the challenge facing him at Headingley.

It is a challenge and then some with Leeds at rock bottom following the club's worst-ever start to a season.

Rohan Smith will be hoping the Rhinos can limit the damage before he touches down on these shores later this month, with Friday's home game against Toulouse Olympique shaping up as the biggest of the campaign.

If the script is already written, he will be in the hot seat for the first time when Hull KR visit Headingley next week.

Taking on your uncle in your first Super League game would be one thing; convincing him to join your new project would be something else altogether.