Leeds boss Brian McDermott has hailed Warrington’s Tony Smith as the “greatest ever overseas coach” in the UK, ahead of this weekend’s Challenge Cup final.
McDermott is tasked with getting better of the Australian on Saturday, when the Rhinos take on the Wolves at Wembley.
Smith, 45, came to this country as a player in 1996 with Workington, before returning to coach Huddersfield in 2000. He went on to win Super League twice with Leeds and then two Challenge Cups with Warrington, with a spell as coach of Great Britain and England sandwiched in between.
McDermott said: “I think Tony Smith is the greatest overseas coach we have ever had in this country. You only need to look at his record at Huddersfield, Leeds and Warrington to see that. Not only has he made those teams successful but he has changed the entire culture of those organisations for the better and left a lasting legacy when he has moved on.
“I have a great deal of admiration for Tony and have always gone on record to say how much I learnt from working alongside him. We face a very tough Warrington side on Saturday, not just because of the talents they possess as individuals but because those individuals are coached by Tony Smith.”
Smith had a tough start to his coaching career in Super League, losing 13 games in a row as Huddersfield were relegated from the top flight, before he guided them straight back at the first attempt by going a season unbeaten in the Northern Ford Premiership.
He moved on to Leeds in November 2003, succeeding Daryl Powell, and led the Rhinos to their first Championship in 32 years in 2004. He added a World Club Challenge title to that at the start of 2005, although they suffered a surprise defeat to Hull in that year’s Challenge Cup final, and also lost to Bradford in the Super League Grand Final.
But he made a return to the club scene in March 2009, taking over at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. In his first season in charge, he led Warrington to their first Challenge Cup final since 1990, and followed that up with a second successive win the year after.
Last year he led the Wolves to their first League Leader’s Shield in the Super League era, and has guided them back to Wembley for the third time in four years.