Key takeaways from Leeds Rhinos press conference: possible interim coach, recruitment latest

Aaron Bower
Ian Blease

New Leeds Rhinos sporting director Ian Blease alongside Gary Hetherington

Leeds Rhinos duo Gary Hetherington and Ian Blease held a press conference to address the exit of Rohan Smith on Thursday morning, with a whole host of topics on the agenda.

Smith’s departure earlier in the week was, inevitably, high among the topics up for discussion – as was the early-stage clues into possible contenders for the role. You can read more about Blease’s comments on both Brad Arthur and Paul Rowley below.

But there were also plenty of other issues to be brought up, too. Here’s the big takeaways from the morning.

Interim coach possible?

While the expectation is that Leeds will go out and appoint a direct replacement for Smith on a long-term contract, Blease hinted that nothing is off the table when it comes to the direction Leeds take next.

That could include a possible interim coach for the rest of this season, if the Rhinos’ preferred candidate is unable to fully take up the role at Headingley until the start of 2025.

“I’m open to see what the market brings,” Blease said. “There’s no preconceived ideas. We need to move up the table, and if that means we need to bring in a coach quickly in the interim, I might look at that. But all I think is that we are open at the moment.”

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Timeframe for an appointment

The Rhinos insist they are relaxed about when they appoint Smith’s permanent replacement, with Chev Walker and Scott Grix set to take the team for at least Friday night’s game against Leigh Leopards.

“I’ve no doubt that there will be quite a bit of interest in the job. It’s a job that many people aspire to,” Rhinos CEO Gary Hetherington said. “There’s no timescale on when that will need to be completed by.”

Blease admitted he has not ruled out heading to Australia to interview potential candidates either, which could further draw out the process.

READ NEXT: Leeds Rhinos legend Barrie McDermott names ‘best man’ to replace Rohan Smith

Recruitment situation

Leeds acted despite Smith’s departure this week in the transfer market. They tried and failed with a move for Huddersfield’s Jake Connor, but did succeed in bringing Sam Eseh in on a four-week loan from Wigan.

Blease admitted that there is also room to manoeuvre further in the market for the Rhinos in the days and weeks ahead, too.

“There’s a bit of room for that,” he said. “We brought Sam in but that was on the back of a critical Monday morning. We’ll have a look at that but again it’s been such a rush with everything, if there’s someone we see and identify them as a target we’ll have a discussion at board level about that.”

Rhyse Martin latest

There was one question towards the end of the press conference which drew a wry smile from Blease: when he was asked if there was an update on Rhyse Martin’s future.

Martin is the subject of interest from the likes of Leigh and Warrington, as well as the Rhinos, who want to tie him down to a new deal.

But when Blease was asked, he simply said: “There’s no update.”


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