Leeds Rhinos v Salford Red Devils: Rohan Smith not surprised by form book ahead of crunch clash
Salford Red Devils have emerged as surprise play-off contenders but Rohan Smith insists they have been on his radar ever since his first game in charge of Leeds Rhinos.
Smith suffered a 23-8 defeat at the AJ Bell Stadium in mid-May after officially taking the reins from Jamie Jones-Buchanan.
The result - a second victory over Leeds in 2022 - kickstarted Salford's season with Paul Rowley's men going on to enjoy a run of seven wins in 10 games.
The Red Devils dismantled defending Super League champions St Helens last time out, running in eight tries in a 44-12 rout.
"They clearly executed very well last week against the best team in the competition," said Smith.
"They have a lot of belief in what they're doing and have been building that for a long time; we saw them 10 games ago and they played well that day and executed well.
"They'll give us their best version. They're trying to fly under the radar but they certainly aren't under our radar.
"They're a dangerous team that believe in what they do, so we're going to have to be very good."
The Rhinos are enjoying a resurgence themselves, winning four of their last five games after building on an encouraging start under Smith.
Leeds demonstrated their newfound belief in Perpignan last weekend when they came from 30-6 down to beat Catalans Dragons with 12 men.
"They've been through a lot all the way through the year," said Smith, who confirmed Tom Briscoe has not been offered a new deal.
"There's been a lot of adversity to deal with and to keep turning up and fighting on a weekly basis shows there's a lot of character in the group.
"That was just another opportunity to test that. At 30-6, it's easy to pack up your tent and worry about next week but they stuck together, played well together and we were fortunate enough to get the result in the end."
Leeds and Salford are separated by a solitary point in the table ahead of Sunday's meeting at Headingley.
Smith remains relaxed about the play-off picture with the Australian instead focused on delivering a strong performance on game day.
"I know we're very close," said Smith.
"I'm not a table watcher at all. If it's there, occasionally I have seen it - but I don't go out of my way to check it.
"It makes no difference to me and how the prep goes. Every game is huge and that'll be the case whether we're first or last in the future as well.
"Playing well this week is always going to be the priority."
Last time out at Headingley, the Rhinos produced their best display of the season to claim a stunning 42-12 win over Wigan Warriors.
Smith is hoping that performance will boost the attendance this weekend.
"There's every reason to come and check it out in person, isn't there?" he said.
"Recent performances have been strong but more than anything fans want to see a committed team that want to play together and play for the badge. That's certainly how we've been going about things regardless of the result at times.
"We've played together for a collective purpose. I'm confident fans will come and enjoy that again on Sunday."