Leeds boss Rohan Smith hoping to form ‘identity’ in first pre-season

Rohan Smith is determined to forge a unique sense of identity among his Leeds squad in a bid to maintain the momentum that swept them from the brink 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 the hope of giving the Rhinos the edge over next year’s Super League opponents.

New boys Derrell Olpherts, Justin Sangare, James McDonnell and Leon Ruan are all set to face Wakefield in a pre-season friendly on Boxing Day, although the game will come too soon for former Gold Coast Titans prop Sam Lisone, who met his new team-mates for the first time on Sunday.

Smith said: “I’m glad to have a pre-season. This is a really enjoyable period where you can see improvement, and maybe our identity as a team is starting to take some shape through these weeks of hard work.”

Smith has included boxing and even gymnastics on his squad’s pre-season schedule, but does not buy the theory that his is an especially radical approach as he seeks ways to maximise his squad’s physical capabilities.

“To me the things we’ve been doing are quite normal, in a holistic, diverse approach to being a good athlete and being an all-round player,” added Smith.

“That may be different to some other people’s preparations but I think rugby league is a sport for generalists rather than specialists athletically.

“So we’ve incorporated lots of different things with how we can move and control our bodies, and move and execute skills.

“I think it’s a pretty well-worn path, but maybe the combination of everything together is alternative to most teams’ approach.”

Smith has been lauded for putting the accent on youth during his tenure, with 19-year-old back-rower Morgan Gannon the latest to be singled out for a potential future within the halves.

Smith has been impressed with his physical attributes as well as his intelligence, and clearly sees Gannon, who made it on to Super League’s 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 got a really wise and mature head on his shoulders for a 19-year-old kid,” said Smith.

“He played in the halves as a young man coming through the grades. I see Morgan as having a really diverse, broad range of skills, and a lot of rugby league awareness.

“He’s a clever kid on and off the field so we’re just giving him opportunities to show what he’s got and to understand a different position and to potentially play there should the opportunity or need arise this season.”

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