Rohan Smith offers Leeds Rhinos recruitment update after Derrell Olpherts exit

Aaron Bower
Rohan Smith Leeds RhinosRohan Smith Leeds Rhinos

Leeds Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith - Alamy

Leeds Rhinos coach Rohan Smith has confirmed the club have no immediate plans to replace outgoing winger Derrell Olpherts following his exit from the club on Tuesday.

Olpherts has left the Rhinos to join Championship club Wakefield Trinity on a permanent deal, bringing an end to his time at Headingley after little over one season at the club. Olpherts’ Leeds deal was due to end later this year, and he has been allowed the chance to secure a longer term deal elsewhere.

The move has freed up cap space at the Rhinos and raised the prospect of Leeds heading into the transfer market to potentially replace Olpherts. However, Smith said his priority is to offer opportunities to younger players down the pecking order as opposed to securing a direct replacement for Olpherts.

“There’s no immediate plans to bring anyone in,” Smith confirmed. “It’s also one of those things, people usually aren’t available at this time unless there’s a circumstance that pops up. We’re committed to the development of youth players and bring players through our pathway but we’re always looking to build on the squad if the right player comes along.”

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Smith admitted he could not offer Olpherts the game-time he wanted heading into the final few months of his Leeds deal, and therefore had no intention of standing in his way when the chance of a move materialised.

“It was one of those circumstances you see in professional sport where a player had an opportunity to be elsewhere and play more game-time and secure a longer term future,” he said.

“It’s coincided with the emergence of our younger players and we’ve got a lot of hope and faith in the younger players coming through, so we felt as though we could accommodate that (exit) with (David) Fusitu’a coming back too.

“Derrell played some big games last year, he had some moments as we all did. It was a difficult set of circumstances last year, he’d had a good pre-season this year and played quite well in the friendlies, but an unfortunate injury gave another player the jump to start the season.

“We’ve been reasonably stable and consistent as a team and haven’t looked to disrupt that, so I could understand an experienced player wanting to get more game-time than I could guarantee him.”

Meanwhile, Smith confirmed that rugby union winger Josh Gillespie will continue to remain on trial at the Rhinos and feature in their reserves match against St Helens next week. Gillespie, who has been at Northampton Saints and Ealing Trailfinders in the past, played in the reserves against Leigh last week, and will get another opportunity to impress next week.

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