Leeds Rhinos head coach: Analysing potential options for Rohan Smith’s successor

Ben Olawumi
Danny McGuire, Jason Demetriou, Paul Rowley

From left to right: Danny McGuire, Jason Demetriou & Paul Rowley are all options to succeed Rohan Smith as Leeds Rhinos' head coach

The second coaching casualty of the season in Super League has materialised, with Rohan Smith leaving Leeds Rhinos ‘by mutual consent’ on Wednesday afternoon.

Australian Smith has left Headingley following another sub-par start to the season that has the Rhinos win less than half of their games in all competitions, beaten 18-10 at Hull FC last Saturday afternoon in a dismal showing.

Leeds crashed out of the Challenge Cup at the Sixth Round stage, and have lost ground in the race for the Super League play-offs – now two points off the pace as we approach the end of June.

And that has led the club to make a change – but where could they turn to next? Here’s a look at some possible contenders…

Brad Arthur

Brad Arthur
Brad Arthur departed Parramatta Eels in May 2024

Arthur’s decade-long association with Parramatta Eels only came to an end last month, but reports have already circulated that he’s interested in taking up a coaching gig in Super League.

His time with the Eels ended with an underwhelming 2023 season and a poor start to 2024, dismissed a day before his 50th birthday, but he’d taken them into the NRL Grand Final in 2022 having also reached the semi-finals in each of the three years beforehand.

A near-52% win percentage over more than 10 years at the helm isn’t an easy return, and it’d be very interesting to see how he’d cope in the Headingley hotseat.

Jason Demetriou

Demetriou is another option from Down Under having been dismissed by South Sydney Rabbitohs at the back end of April, bringing an end to a little over two years at the helm having been involved with the Bunnies for circa five-and-a-half years in total.

The Aussie, 48, knows all about Super League having made over 200 appearances in the British top flight during his playing days, the vast majority of which for Wakefield Trinity.

Two-time Canada international Demetriou also cut his teeth in the coaching business over here, taking charge of Keighley Cougars in 2011 and leading them to promotion from League 1 in his first season at the helm.

Danny McGuire

Danny McGuire
Danny McGuire is currently with Castleford Tigers

The only man on this list who is already a fan favourite at Headingley, McGuire is yet to permanently take on a head coach gig, and turned down the opportunity to do so with Castleford ahead of this season, opting to join the Tigers as Craig Lingard’s number two instead.

McGuire’s name pops up whenever any vacancy opens up in Super League, and given the connection he has to hometown club Leeds, it will undoubtedly be in the mix again.

Prior to moving to Cas, the 41-year-old spent two seasons on the coaching team at Hull KR having initially been appointed their Head of Recruitment after hanging up his boots. Following Tony Smith’s departure from Craven Park, McGuire became interim head coach, but again, he passed up on throwing his name in that hat for the job on a full-time basis.

Paul Rowley

Even without Ian Blease’s move to Headingley, Rowley’s name would’ve been thrown up as soon as Rohan Smith’s departure was confirmed, but with Blease now Leeds’ Director of Rugby, you’d have to have Rowley down as one of the favourites.

That’s if, and a it’s a big if, he wants the job as Salford have already tabled him a new deal with the long-term goal of becoming the Red Devils’ DoR.

The 49-year-old has over 250 games as a head coach on his CV, and is among the most experienced in Super League at present, working miracles on a shoestring budget with Salford. We’d love to see how he’d perform at Leeds with a big budget behind him!

Jason Ryles

Jason Ryles
Jason Ryles pictured in 2023 during his time as Sydney Roosters’ assistant coach

Former Catalans Dragons ace Ryles, now 45, is being eyed up for the vacant Parramatta job with Trent Barrett currently in interim charge of the Eels until the end of this season.

But if he isn’t to become Brad Arthur’s permanent successor, he may well seek his first professional head coach role in Super League, and Leeds are the type of club to be able to attract him.

The 14-time Australia international only returned to Melbourne Storm as Craig Bellamy’s right-hand man this year having spent time with the junior Kangaroos & Sydney Roosters during his time away from the club as well as the national rugby union teams of both Australia & England.