Everything Gary Hetherington had to say on new Leeds head coach

Leeds Rhinos Gary Hetherington

Leeds held a press conference with chief executive Gary Hetherington following their latest head coach announcement. 

The Rhinos have appointed Rohan Smith as their new head coach on a three-and-a-half-year contract.

Smith, 40, will join Headingley Stadium immediately from reigning Queensland Cup Champions Norths Devils.

Here’s what Hetherington said during the club’s press call following the appointment.

Gary Hetherington on coaching appointment

Hetherington said: “He is an outstanding candidate. We set a pretty tough criteria right from the start. I said previously, it would be an exhausted process. But the candidate needed to have worked at the highest level in Super League or the NRL, certainly would have had to have head coach experience and a track record of success. That ruled quite a number of people out, but quite a number of applicants created a very strong pool from which we had to select from.

“We ended up with a shortlist of about eight across both Australia and back at home. It was a very strong pool and some outstanding candidates. But in Rohan Smith, we have somebody who ticks a lot of boxes for us. He has experience in running a rugby operation which is what you need as this level. He has also enjoyed significant success. He’s a coach educator as well.

“For those who know about coaching, he comes with the highest of recommendations.”

Rohan Smith’s experience

Smith’s experience has seen him work at the likes of New Zealand Warriors, London Broncos, Newcastle Knights and New Zealand on the international scene. 

He was the head coach of Bradford and had a brief stint as the Tonga boss. He joins the club from Queensland Cup side North Devils. 

Asked if he’s worried about Smith’s lack of head coaching experience, Hetherington replied: “No concern at all. Rohan ticks many boxes. He’s very ambitious and has been very successful and is really committed. He has a real passion for the game. It’s a very much a long-term appointment. He’s here to build and guide our team building and we have some outstanding young players who he’ll be perfect mentor to.

“I believe Rohan Smith was the perfect candidate.”

When will Rohan arrive?

Rohan is set to arrive shortly from Australia. Hetherington said: “Pretty soon, all being well. His club have give him the blessing to be able to travel. The application process is already live. There’s a chance he could be here for next Friday when we play Hull KR, which will be an interesting one with Tony Smith there (his uncle).

“Jamie Jones-Buchanan and his staff will remain in charge for this Friday’s clash with Toulouse and next Friday as well. But we’re hoping Rohan Smith can arrive pretty soon.”

Any link between Rohan arriving and Tony Smith departing Hull KR?

Hull KR coach Tony Smith has announced he will leave the club upon the expiry of his contract at the end of the season.

Asked if there was any connections between the recent announcement, Hetherington answered:  “No correlation. That came as a surprise for me. Tony has done a terrific job for Hull KR. They’re flying high now. I was a bit surprised to see that announcement. Completely out of the blue.”

Gary Hetherington on Jamie Jones-Buchanan

Jamie Jones-Buchanan will remain as assistant coach.

“Jamie Jones-Buchanan and his staff have done an outstanding job,” the Leeds chief executive said.

“A priority for us now is to get some winning results. More long-term, it’s clearly to get some quality players on the field and get them playing well and show our fans what we’re capable of doing which we haven’t been able to do so far this season. 

“Jamie will return to his former role as assistant coach. I think this experience has done him well and he is a future head coach. Rohan will inherit the staff and the players here.”

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About Josh McAllister 1313 Articles
Journalist. Joined the Love Rugby League team full time at the start of 2022 having been a freelance reporter for several years. Previously media manager for Swinton and Rochdale.

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