Rohan Smith searching for ways to give Leeds an edge in his first pre-season
Rohan Smith is determined to forge a unique sense of identity within his Leeds team to maintain the momentum that has taken them from the edge of the relegation zone to the Grand Final.
Smith’s arrival in April sparked a stunning revival at Headingley and now the 41-year-old head coach is making the most of his first full pre-season in hopes of giving the Rhinos an advantage over next year’s Super League opponents.
New signings Derrell Olpherts, Justin Sangare, James McDonnell and Leon Ruan will take on Wakefield in a pre-season friendly on Boxing Day, although the game came too early for former Gold Coast Titans base Sam Lisone, who faced his new team will come -mates for the first time on Sunday.
Smith said: “I’m happy to have a preseason. This is a really encouraging time where you can see improvement and perhaps in these weeks of hard work our identity as a team is beginning to take shape.”
Smith has included boxing and even gymnastics in his team’s training schedule, but doesn’t believe the theory that his approach is particularly radical as he seeks ways to maximize his team’s physical abilities.
“For me, the things we do are quite normal, in a holistic, diverse approach to being a good athlete and an all-around player,” Smith added.
“It might be different than some other people’s preparations, but I think rugby league is a sport for generalists, not specialists.
“So we included a lot of different things about how to move and control our bodies and how to move and perform skills.
“I think it’s a pretty well-trodden path, but maybe combining everything together is an alternative to most teams’ approach.”
Smith has been praised for putting an emphasis on youth during his tenure, with 19-year-old back rower Morgan Gannon last picked for a potential future in the halves.
Impressed by both his physical attributes and intelligence, Smith clearly sees Gannon, who made the Super League Young Player of the Year shortlist last season, as a player ripe for development.
“Morgan is a very, very talented young player and he has a really wise and mature head on his shoulders for a 19-year-old,” said Smith.
“He used to play in the halves as a young man coming through the grades. I see Morgan as having a really diverse, wide range of skills and a lot of rugby league awareness.
“He’s a smart kid on and off the field so we’re just giving him a chance to show what he’s got, understand a different position and potentially play there if the opportunity or need arises this season. “