Rhinos announce Rohan Smith as new Head Coach

Leeds Rhinos have announced the appointment of Rohan Smith, 40, as the club’s new Head Coach on a three and half year contract with immediate effect, that will keep him at Headingley until at least the end of the 2025 Super League season.

Smith joins the Rhinos from reigning Queensland Cup Champions Norths Devils having worked with a host of NRL clubs throughout his coaching career. Rohan is the son of former Hull and Bradford coach Brian Smith and the nephew of former Leeds Head Coach Tony Smith.

Understandably with his family’s pedigree in coaching, Rohan Smith has always had a keen interest in coaching and enabling players to fulfil their potential. His first opportunity in the professional game came with New Zealand Warriors back in 2003 when he was a video analyst for Daniel Anderson, which led to an opportunity with the Kiwis national side. He then moved to England to work with London Broncos before a return to Australia in 2007 to become an assistant coach with Newcastle Knights, working alongside his father. He had a brief spell as Head Coach of Tonga during this period before moving to Sydney Roosters between 2010 and 2012.

In 2013, he moved to Penrith Panthers before a return to the New Zealand Warriors in 2014. In 2015 he moved to Gold Coast Titans as an assistant coach before the opportunity arose to become Head Coach with Bradford Bulls in the Championship in England. His time at the Bulls was marred by off field financial issues for the Odsal club, however Smith’s reputation continued to grow after impressing the players he worked with, including the current Rhinos Academy coach Chev Walker, who was his assistant at the Bulls.

His next Head Coach role came with Norths Devils in the Queensland Cup, Brisbane Broncos’ affiliate club. Norths are one of the oldest Rugby League clubs in Australia but had not won the Queensland Cup for 18 years when he took over, despite an illustrious history that had seen the likes of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater play for the club. He set about transforming the team and led them to glory last year in their Grand Final win over Wynnum Manly Seagulls.

Leeds Rhinos Chief Executive Gary Hetherington commented, “We are extremely pleased to have secured one of the most exciting young coaches in the game at present. Rohan Smith is highly regarded both here in England and Australia and is someone who is passionate about coaching and most importantly for us, excited about developing our players and a winning culture and environment.

“I would like to thank Norths Devils and Brisbane Broncos in allowing us to speak to Rohan about our vacancy.  I know both clubs rate Rohan extremely highly, not just because of his coaching philosophies, but how he has transferred that into a winning team at the Devils. At the outset I stated this was one of the most important appointments in our club’s history. I would like to thank all our supporters and partners for their patience during this period but it was vital that we spoke to all interested parties both here in England and overseas. Through that process, Rohan Smith was an outstanding candidate for the role and I am personally delighted to have agreed the deal to bring him to Headingley.

“Interestingly, Rohan is three years older than his uncle Tony when he became Head Coach of the Rhinos back in 2003 and I see many parallels in both their early coaching careers to this point. Rohan has vast experience having been part of various coaching teams over the last twenty years, working with people some of the biggest names in modern NRL coaching.

“We had two over riding criteria when selecting our new Head Coach. The first was that they must have had experience and success as a Head Coach and secondly have experience of working at the highest level in Super League or the NRL and Rohan fits the bill on both those fronts.  

“Finally, on behalf of everyone at the club, I would like to thank Jamie Jones-Buchanan and the rest of the coaching staff for the outstanding job they have done in difficult circumstances in recent weeks. Jamie will remain in charge of preparations for the team for our next two games against Toulouse and Hull KR to give the side continuity and stability for two crucial games and we hope to have Rohan with us as soon as possible once the relevant paperwork has been completed,” added Hetherington. 

The new Leeds Rhinos Head Coach added, “I am excited about the opportunity and really looking forward to getting back to the UK. The opportunity to be a Head Coach in Super League is something I have always aspired to do and especially with a club with such a rich history in the game and a proud tradition of developing talent through their Academy. As a development-minded coach, when I look back on my career, the clubs that I have enjoyed working at most are those who develop their own and I know that is part of the Rhinos way. 

“One of the best things about Rugby League is the relationship you build with your players and I am looking forward to reconnecting with a number of guys I have worked with previously who are now at the Rhinos, but also I am excited about meeting and working with everyone else as well. 

“I love coaching and helping players, young and old, to get better. As a coach you want to help them in their journey in their footy and in life and I am really looking forward to getting over to Leeds and starting to work with the guys,” added Smith.