Rohan Smith, Ian Blease’s first words after Leeds Rhinos exit confirmed

Aaron Bower
Rohan Smith Leeds Rhinos

Rohan Smith has insisted he believes Leeds Rhinos can still make the play-offs after his exit from the Super League club was confirmed – while new sporting director Ian Blease says the Rhinos are on the hunt for a man who can lead them ‘into a new era’.

Smith’s departure via mutual consent was finalised on Wednesday, just two days out from their next home game against Leigh Leopards. Chev Walker and Scott Grix will lead the Rhinos in that game after Smith was removed from his position after just over two years in charge at Headingley.

The decision comes just days into Blease’s time as the club’s new sporting director – and he insisted: “Whilst I have only arrived at the club recently, I have seen from my meetings with the rugby staff and players how well respected Rohan is.

“We must manage this change carefully so the players can focus fully on their performances, starting this Friday against Leigh.

“My review of our rugby operation is ongoing and, clearly, the scope of those recommendations will now need to widen with Rohan’s departure. That process starts now to appoint a new head coach who we believe will be talented and suitable to take the club into a new era.

“Assistant coaches Chev Walker and Scott Grix will take the final training session of the week on Thursday and will be in charge on Friday night against Leigh. We then have no game next week for the international break so that will allow us to plan further into the future.”

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Smith himself insisted that he felt the timing of the decision was right, to remove all speculation from the piece as the Rhinos prepare to celebrate the life of their legendary player, Rob Burrow.

He said: “I had always stated that it was a long term project to establish a team that will be able to have sustainable success, and I believe that we have assembled a roster that can continue to push for a 2024 playoff spot, the supporters can get behind the boys and give them their support.

“Friday will be a special night for the club and we wanted to remove the ongoing coaching speculation and distraction. Celebrating Rob’s life, the great work done by the club and Kev for the MND community and playing well is the focus for Friday.

“I believe this team can still achieve great things and I am proud of the work that the coaching team have done to develop players, especially the next generations. Unfortunately, I will not be head coach to see this development continue but I look forward to watching the clubs future successes and wish everyone at the club all the best for the future.”

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