Leeds Rhinos v Wakefield Trinity: Rohan Smith is aware of size of the challenge at Headingley

As Leeds Rhinos slumped to an eighth defeat of the Super League season last week, Rohan Smith could have been forgiven for wondering what he had got himself into.

Second best: Leeds forward Sam Walters is tackled during the defeat by Salford - coach Rohan Smith's first match in charge. Picture: John Clifton/SWPix.com
Second best: Leeds forward Sam Walters is tackled during the defeat by Salford - coach Rohan Smith's first match in charge. Picture: John Clifton/SWPix.com

The Rhinos were distinctly second best against an impressive Salford Red Devils outfit, a dose of reality on the back of successive home wins.
But a month to the day since his appointment was announced, Smith insisted there had been no nasty surprises.

“I don’t think it’s changed,” he replied when asked how the job compared with his expectations at the start.

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“I knew it was a huge job before I was offered it. It’s always been a huge job for anyone who’s been in the seat.

Nice try: Ash Handley scored for Leeds against the Red Devils, but there wasn't much else for the Leeds faithful to cheer. Picture by John Clifton/SWpix.com

“There are big expectations. I don’t think anything has changed there.

“It’s obviously different for any coach who comes in at different times.

“The state of the club isn’t in the same position so understanding where it’s at from a playing point of view and staff point of view is something I’ve been working on.”

Smith inherited a talented squad low on confidence and stretched by persistent injury and suspension issues.

Difficult start: Rohan Smith, left, and Sean Long watch the Rhinos lose to Salford. Picture by John Clifton/SWpix.com

Leeds will continue without the likes of Jack Walker, Harry Newman and Aidan Sezer when they entertain Wakefield Trinity tonight.

Smith believes the Rhinos have suffered from a lack of continuity this season, something he is hoping to address once he gets the chance to field a settled team.

“There are some great young players coming through and a lot of experience in the group as well,” said the Australian.

“Given the turbulence of the season so far with so many injuries and suspensions, there’s been a lack of cohesion and a lot of different combinations and we’re on to our third different coach.

“There needs to be a bit of time for stability and growth individually and collectively, and I think collectively is the key.

“There are always going to be changes but you want them to be on your terms rather than forced through injury or suspension.

“Getting some stability through the next period is important but we’re still a bit of time away from knowing our best combinations because we haven’t had the opportunity through the year to work them out. 
“It could still take a bit of time to fully settle but I’m certainly aware of the need for stability.”

Smith’s short-term goal is to mastermind a win over West Yorkshire rivals Wakefield in his first home game in charge.

There is an understandable focus on the new head coach as he prepares for his Headingley debut but he was keen to point to the bigger picture.

“It’ll be very special,” he said. “It’s a privilege to be a coach at this club and not a lot of people get to do it so it’s certainly something very special.

“I’m sure I’ll savour it at some point but it’s about the players and the club tomorrow.

“It’s certainly not about me but it’ll be something to reflect on in the future, that’s for sure.”

Smith has vowed to keep changes to a minimum with the bulk of last week’s side set to get the chance to right the wrongs of the AJ Bell Stadium setback.

The Rhinos are taking on a Wakefield outfit fresh from a sixth straight loss but Smith has not been fooled by their recent form.

“They’re a team that are going to fire some bullets at us,” he said.

“They’ve got real dangerous outside backs and in backfield they’re very threatening.

“They’ve got some players who are a bit out of the ordinary with the way they do things in [David] Fifita and some of the way the halves go about things when play breaks down.

“In a little bit of broken play, they’re certainly very threatening so we expect to see some of that and our job is to minimise those opportunities.”

Trinity’s defeat at Toulouse Olympique has heightened the importance of tonight’s game.
Leeds are one point better off than Wakefield with Toulouse two adrift of Willie Poching’s men at the bottom.

Smith understands what is at stake but above all, he wants to see signs of his new charges implementing his ideas.

“Every win at this stage is going to be very valuable,” said Smith. “I’m aware of that for sure but the process has very much been the order of the day in our prep this week. They’re probably understanding the way I speak and the way we’re doing things clearer.

“I’m looking forward to seeing some evidence of that.”