Rohan Smith future, Rhyse Martin contract top of Ian Blease’s Leeds Rhinos in-tray

Aaron Bower
Ian Blease

New Leeds Rhinos sporting director Ian Blease alongside Gary Hetherington

Ian Blease officially begins work as Leeds Rhinos’ new sporting director today (Monday) – with plenty of issues for him to get stuck into.

Unsurprisingly, one particular item will dominate his thinking as he sets about trying to restore the Rhinos‘ fortunes and usher them back to the top end of Super League.

But there’s plenty of other things for Blease to get his head around as he settles into life at AMT Headingley. Here’s his in-tray..

Rohan Smith’s future

Rohan Smith Leeds Rhinos

Of course, Blease’s main priority is deciding who will coach the Rhinos in the short, medium and long-term, with pressure rising on Rohan Smith’s position as head coach.

Nothing has been decided one way or the other, with Blease keen to sit down with Smith to plot out a future. But the noise around Smith’s position is louder than it has ever been following the nature of Saturday’s defeat to Hull FC.

Blease’s arrival ushers in a new start for Leeds, and he will have to essentially decide whether he persists with Smith, or starts afresh. It will be a difficult decision, but Blease became renowned at Salford for the nature of his decision-making and his ability to do the right thing at the right time.

This will be one of his toughest calls yet.

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The Rhyse Martin saga

Rhyse Martin Leeds Rhinos Alamy

It’s now a four-way race to sign Rhyse Martin in 2025: with Leigh Leopards, Warrington Wolves and the Rhinos competing with the NRL too, as interest brews Down Under over Martin’s signature.

The chances of Leeds retaining Martin appear slim from the outside looking in, not least given the calibre of financial strength some of the sides courting the Papua New Guinean have at their disposal.

Blease will no doubt be keen to draw a line under the Martin situation one way or another. If he re-signs, it is a good bit of business for Leeds.

If he chooses to move on, Leeds need to enter the market to source a replacement. Time is of the essence, you sense – and a quick resolution over the future of a player that is still crucial for the Rhinos is imperative.

Under-performing, contracted players

There’s a lot of talk about players that are off-contract at Leeds later this year, but Blease’s full-scale review of the on-field situation at Leeds will encompass everyone, even those with long-term contracts.

Nobody will be secure, you sense, from their futures at the club coming under the microscope as Blease sets about putting his stance on the Rhinos.

Given how poor Leeds have been for stretches of this season, a potential overhaul will not be limited to the handful of players who are coming off-contract later this year.

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