Leeds Rhinos boss Rohan Smith gives insight into bold recruitment drive following ‘uncommon’ overhaul of spine

George Riley
Andy Ackers, Lachie Miller, Matt Frawley, Rohan Smith Leeds Rhinos Alamy

Andy Ackers, Lachie Miller and Matt Frawley are part of Rohan Smith's new Rhinos spine - Alamy

Leeds boss Rohan Smith admits the complete overhaul of his team’s spine was an ‘uncommon’ move, but believes it holds the key to returning silverware to Headingley.

The Rhinos reacted to a disappointing 2023 campaign with a double swoop Down Under, bringing in a new full-back in Lachlan Miller and scrum-half Matt Frawley.

But it was the bold business with Salford Red Devils that made big headlines, as Leeds swooped for key duo Brodie Croft, the 2022 Steve Prescott Man of Steel, and England hooker Andy Ackers.

Three of the four starred as Leeds fought back from a half-time deficit to romp past Wakefield in the traditional Boxing Day Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenge at Headingley, with Ackers creating two tries to win man-of-the-match on his debut.

And Smith told Love Rugby League that he believes the club’s no-nonsense recruitment approach can pave the way for an exciting future.

“We were quite happy with the recruitment we had done and the retention we had done up to the point that Brodie and Ackers became available,” Smith explained.

“When the opportunity presented itself, we then decided it was a good time to strike and to really make a big difference to our team.

“It is not common to change a whole spine in one go but we were very thorough with our work on recruitment of both person and player, and we feel we have the right personality of player to fit in quickly.

“We have a very new group. But also a fair bit of cohesion as well. The new faces have fitted in really well. They are good people and good players, and they have been exactly what we have signed up for so far.”

New Leeds recruits to help mentor baby Rhinos into stars of tomorrow

Leeds were without several first team players on Boxing Day, with the likes of James Donaldson, James Bentley, Rhyse Martin, Harry Newman, Mikolaj Oledzki and David Fusitua unavailable, and Croft plus Paul Momirovski both back home in Australia.

That gave youth its chance, with Jack Smith scoring a try, Jack Sinfield kicking six goals and a drop goal, and Tom Nicholson-Watton grabbing a try off the bench.

And Smith has revealed that part of the agreement with his experienced new signings is that they will play a key role in developing these stars of tomorrow.

“We also have already got the next spine in the building in the younger players in our group, so they (Croft and Ackers) will also be fulfilling a mentoring opportunity to bring on the next brigade.” Smith added.

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