Rohan Smith appears to have been somewhat left in the dark over Blake Austin’s exit from Headingley Stadium, with a loan move confirmed to Castleford Tigers for the remainder of the season.
Austin, 32, has made the move effective immediately, but won’t be available for new head coach Andy Last ahead of Friday’s clash with Huddersfield Giants in Super League.
The move all-but confirms his exit from Headingley Stadium, with the Australian playmaker without a deal beyond the current campaign.
It leaves the Rhinos light on numbers in their spine, with in-form Austin having made 17 appearances for the club in 2023 to date.
“It was a bit of a surprise to start with,” Smith said.
“I went to bed somewhere between 10.30pm and 11:00pm and when I started my walk this morning, I turned my phone back on and had a message saying that it was likely that a deal had been done with Castleford.
“Through the early parts of this morning, that was confirmed. It came as a bit of a surprise, for sure.
“I actually don’t know all of the process that had happened there. But at this point in time, close to the transfer deadline, if a decision had been made, I was supportive of that once I was briefed on it this morning.
“You’d have to ask Blake why he’s moved, that’s not for me to discuss. I’ve played no part in the negotiations and by the time I engaged, it was well down the path.”
Leeds Rhinos fear season-ending injury with recruitment update provided
Smith confirmed that the club will be looking into the player market before Friday’s deadline, although conceded it may be too late to bring in some fresh faces.
Morgan Gannon is expected to return in the coming weeks, while the club are sweating on a potential season-ending injury to full-back Richie Myler.
The 33-year-old has suffered a foot injury with a scan revealing a stress-related fracture.
“It’s come at the very last minute. I haven’t considered making a change to our roster, quota spots had been filled and there had been no intention to change,” Smith commented.
“But now the circumstance of Richie’s injury and Blake’s movement, we’re going to have a quick look and see what’s available.”