James Bentley reputation is ‘inaccurately framed’, says Leeds Rhinos coach Rohan Smith

Aaron Bower
James Bentley Leeds Rhinos Alamy

Rohan Smith admits that Leeds Rhinos have no issues with James Bentley’s one-match suspension – but believes that the forward’s reputation has been ‘inaccurately framed’ in recent weeks and says opponents are trying to get under his skin.

Bentley will miss the Rhinos’ trip to Leigh Leopards on Friday night after being found guilty of striking Catalans Dragons‘ Tariq Sims during an incident in the early stages of their game on Saturday afternoon at Headingley. It is the latest suspension in a lengthy line in recent years for the forward, who has earned a reputation as a player that has consistently been in hot water with the disciplinary process.

But Smith believes that the Ireland international has adapted well to being deliberately targeted by opposition players and insists he has been delighted with how Bentley has adjusted his game to deal with that extra attention, insisting his reputation is perhaps undeserved.

When asked about Bentley’s ban, Smith said: “I think firstly, there’s been a few of these through the opening part of the season, where the retaliator has got himself into trouble. I think that may or may not have been factored in, I’m not sure. But James has got a bit of a reputation but it’s been inaccurately framed of late.

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“He’s reacted a couple of times in games which we need to work on, it’s not okay to react, but he got a clip around the jaw and then got pushed into a concrete wall, so those moments of brief reaction need to be attended to.

“But in his general game-play, the other teams are trying to get under his skin but he’s not actually reacting. James has changed how he’s played the game and he’s actually refrained from getting into scuffles. The week (suspension), we’re okay with that verdict, and it’ll be something that James does need to learn from. He’s also shown good signs of constraint and focus when the ball is in play.”

Smith insists the changes in Bentley’s game have come about due to his revised approach off the field, too.

“Something that has always stuck with me was what Craig Fitzgibbon once told me – how you live your life is how you play your footy,” he said.

“James has worked really hard on his personal life and stuff off the field and he’s doing great things with property and real estate, so he’s working on himself off the field.

“He’s had some more controlled performances in matches so far, he’s been hampered by a few little niggling injuries, but the best is still definitely ahead for James.”

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