Rohan Smith has promised Leeds Rhinos fans that better times lie ahead in 2024, detailing a multitude of reasons that they haven’t been able to deliver the ‘season they envisaged’ this term.
Much has been made of the state of affairs that the Rhinos find themselves in, both on and off the pitch. Off it, amidst growing frustrations from the club’s supporters, CEO Gary Hetherington has had to issue assurances around recruitment after some very public exits, none more so than that of Blake Austin mid-season.
On it meanwhile, boss Smith has guided the Headingley outfit to just 11 Super League wins so far this term after a 2022 which saw them go all the way to the Grand Final.
Sat 8th with two games remaining, four points outside the top six, qualifying for the play-offs this year seems an absolute impossibility. Their fate will be mathematically cemented this weekend unless they pull off a shock win away at Catalans Dragons and see every other result go their way.
Rohan Smith explains Leeds Rhinos downfall in 2023
Speaking ahead of their trip to the South of France, Smith gave an insight into the various problems which have blighted his side this term, and hinted at more ongoings that those outside of the camp will probably never know about.
The Australian told Love Rugby League: “We’ve had multiple departures. Some of those, or at least the unavailability of players, have come at a time when you can’t replace them, so you can’t bring in anyone else.
“We’ve had a bunch of injuries, often at the same time in certain clumps during the year. To put those things together in a group that is still learning its own identity is a challenge.
“We’ve hit some obstacles there, and a few times we just haven’t played as well as we could or should have. Working alongside that, there’s lots of young players getting their opportunities within the group, there’s been a lot of chopping and changing, and there’s been a lot of things that will never be revealed happening behind the scenes.
“We’ve had medical issues like Zane Tetevano that, on top of all the other things, just aren’t common. A lot of things have happened behind the scenes, and I think in a lot of the weeks, whether we’ve got the result or not, it’s been very commendable spirit given the situations we’ve had behind the scenes. There’s been a lot of good happen, just not quite the right results.”
‘We’ll be a different squad next year’: Rhinos chief promises improvement in 2024
At times this year, Smith himself has come under fire from various avenues, with CEO Hetherington publicly backing him in the midst of criticism.
And having once again re-iterated his own belief in being able to turn the club’s fortunes back around, the 42-year-old explained his plans for a revamped squad next year, asking fans to buy into an ‘evolution’.
He told Love Rugby League: “We’ll be reviewing how we go about our process and practice to give ourselves the best chance of having players available and players playing well, but we’ll be a different squad next year. The younger players, whether they’re in their first year of Super League or whether they’re the blokes in the middle of their career, they’re progressing and improving.
“We’ll be a different group next year in terms of how we play and how we connect together. The addition of three, four, five, even six faces that are going to play every week, that’ll make a big difference as well.
“It’s an evolution, people don’t want to hear about re-building, but that’s reality when you have so many high paid players over the last couple of years, some of them coming towards the back end of their career.
“It’s a process, and things have to build from within. We’ve got a lot of young players within our group that haven’t played yet either, and they’re going to be regular Super League players in the coming years as well.
“There’s more transition to come, and we’ll be a competitive team next year, as we have been for the majority of this year. It’s not the season we’d envisaged, or the one we’d expect or require of ourselves, but next year is a new year. We’ve learnt and grown a lot this year as individuals.”