Rohan Smith is adamant his Leeds Rhinos side has not become a bad team overnight, with the coach hitting back at claims a lack of leadership is behind their poor Super League form.
The Australian stepped into the Rhinos hotseat back in spring 2022, replacing Richard Agar at the helm. And the 42-year-old’s arrival sparked an excellent response, with Leeds going all the way the Grand Final.
That raised hopes that 2023 would see a return to form for Leeds, who having won Super League eight times are the competition’s second-most successful club.
However, after an indifferent start, the Rhinos now find themselves in the middle of an awful run. Heading into Sunday’s game at basement boys Wakefield, the Rhinos had lost six of the last seven matches.
As such, the last thing they needed was another defeat, especially given Trinity were winless going into the game and having been branded the ‘worst-ever Super League side’.
However, a 24-14 loss condemned Leeds to yet another defeat – and arguably their worst of the season.
That leaves Leeds six points adrift of the play-off places with 12 rounds to go.
Rohan Smith sends Leeds Rhinos players stern warning
That has seen debate starting to rage over Smith’s Headingley future, with their manner of their performances, as well as their results, causing alarm.
The Aussie admitted himself that the performance was not of required standard, raising further concerns if he is up to the task.
Smith, though, is adamant both he and his players can overcome their sticky patch. And he insists his team have not become bad players overnight and that his beliefs will not change.
“When I got here last year I believed in the players,” Smith said, via the Yorkshire Evening Post. “There’s a short and long-term thing every week in coaching where you’re trying to build something for the future, while trying to win every week.
“My belief won’t change, that’s where a lot of the frustration among the coaches and the players and the fans comes from.
“There’s talent there, a few weeks ago we had some monumental performances. You don’t become a bad team, but we were a bad team [against Trinity]. We’ve got it in us to play much better.”
The Rhinos are next in action on Friday 23 June when they tackle Huddersfield Giants at Headingley.
And with a blank weekend on the canvas after their Challenge Cup elimination, Rhinos will have the best part of two weeks to dwell on that loss.
Smith, though, insists that is not a bad thing and hopes his players reflect on that defeat to inspire much better performances.
“Sometimes it’s good to dwell on a poor performance for a while and work out how much you want to fight through the other side.”
Smith hits back at claims of a lack of leadership
He added: “I’ve said to the guys, it’s a similar situation to last year – you can choose to fight or choose to tap out. There’s only one solution when you sign up for coaching and that’s to fight.”
Some supporters are angry at Smith for failing to name a full-time captain this season, saying the club lack leadership. However, the Aussie has snapped back at suggestions with a firm response.
“Leadership comes in different forms,” he said. “Some are leading the way by trying to show the way, but you can’t do other people’s jobs for them.
“Ash [Handley] and Cam [Smith] have taken on a lot of leadership in the last couple of months and others have a voice when needed, but individually you’ve to do your job and own your area.
“At the moment we’re accumulating too many poor plays back-to-back and that’s giving other teams an opportunity.”
Following the clash against the Giants, Leeds then travel to Warrington and Salford Red Devils. They then find themselves back at Headingley to tackle Hull KR. And failure to win at least three of those matches will see Smith’s decisions coming under more scrutiny.