Everything Leeds Rhinos boss Rohan Smith said on crowd reaction, recruitment struggles and long-term optimism

Wigan ran riot in the sun. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)
Wigan ran riot in the sun. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

The 50-0 rout was Leeds' biggest-ever Super League defeat at Headingley and leaves Rohan Smith's side needing a miracle to qualify for the play-offs.

Here is everything Smith said after watching his team concede nine tries without reply on Saturday afternoon.

Thoughts on the game

It's clearly disappointing. The players have put a lot of effort in today. The opening period was a good arm wrestle. We got beaten to the punch a bit on a couple of kick plays, a video ref one that went a long way – and there were a lot of replays on that one.

We were second best against a very, very strong Wigan team. There are a lot of players in our group that are doing their best for the team at the moment. They're trying hard playing out of position or more minutes than expected.

The blokes in that group are tight and together despite lacking execution today in key moments.

Is it down to an inexperienced team or does it go deeper than that?

Leeds were humiliated by their rivals. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)
Leeds were humiliated by their rivals. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

That was today's performance. We've had a lot of close games pretty much all year.

We played against an opposition that are firing. A lot of our players have been to a place this year where they haven't been before. Some of them are being asked to play in a new position, more minutes or a bigger role given the people that have departed.

There's a lot of spirit in that group. They're a proud group. We'll start again and build up to have a good performance next week.

How do you approach the game against Catalans and get chins off the floor?

Leeds's coach Rohan Smith is interviewed after his side's 50-0 loss to Wigan. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)
Leeds's coach Rohan Smith is interviewed after his side's 50-0 loss to Wigan. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

Every game in Super League is a tough one and that's how we treat it. It'll take a few days.

You never forget these types of days. They stay with you. You just learn to deal with it better and to take something out of it, the younger players particularly and some experienced players are still going to learn something out of today if they choose to, which they will.

We'll get on with it. Professional sport is about that. You're going to have some bad days. We'll front up and fight through it.

What's the mood like in the dressing room?

Abbas Miski celebrates his try. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)
Abbas Miski celebrates his try. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

They're disappointed. A lot of effort has gone into that today but we miscalculated at times and were just beaten by some top-end players at times as well.

Did Cam Smith fail his HIA?

He passed it but we just chose not to put him back on right at the end to give some opportunities and minutes to other people. Cam has been playing a lot.

Did Ash Handley get through or was he struggling a bit?

I'm not sure. He'll have a sore foot because he's dealing with a plantar fascia injury which can be pretty painful but then they can settle and you can go again, and then they get painful again. He'll be in that cycle for the back end of the year.

There were boos and chants of you're not fit to wear the shirt – how does that make you feel as a coach?

Jai Field runs at Jack Sinfield. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)
Jai Field runs at Jack Sinfield. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

The fans have been great this year, both home and away. The travelling support has been phenomenal, and the crowds and atmosphere here have been great all year.

The crowd are entitled to be disappointed and upset today that we didn’t make it more of a contest on the scoreboard but you look at that full-strength Wigan team and how they’ve been playing, how their season is rolling and all the obstacles we’ve had with a very young team today.

You’re going to have some rough days with young players but it’s the only way you learn, get better and build a team.

Your play-off chances are all but over now – do you share the fans' frustrations at how the season has gone?

Any of the fans that are frustrated, disappointed or any kind of downside, we all share it. We live and breathe it every day.

It's a process. People don’t want to hear about rebuilding and transitions around this club but that is the reality.

We have had lots of players off contract in the last few years, players who are coming and going. Cohesion, chemistry and building takes time.

You can't just buy them from anywhere. Where are they? It's difficult to get players from Australia. The salary cap is phenomenal over there. There will be some come in for sure.

The English market is very difficult as well because clubs keep all their best players. The difference makers have to come from process through academy and development of player. That's the reality of it.

Do you envisage more pain before it gets better for Leeds?

As I've said multiple times this year, I think there have been a lot of good things happening and development of players. A lot of blokes that are in that room now have done well – but collectively we've got to be better.

Another pre-season and some key additions will assist that but there's a lot of growth from within that group still. Eradicating regular disruptions will be a key focus in the next period as we prepare for next pre-season.

It's still very important we respond to this. The character of the group will be on show. They're a good bunch of people and will stick together. We'll fight back.

Are you as optimistic now as you've ever been that you can turn this club around and get it back to where it belongs?

There's no doubt about that. Having a bad day like that… I think that might be the first real blowout scoreline in my time here. There have been a few others where it's been a bit beyond us but we've been in the battle at least at some stage of the game. We've had a lot of hard-fought wins.

It takes time. That group in there that played today isn't the group we planned to be playing too often this year and isn't the group that will be playing next year collectively. Individuals will all participate but there are lots of disruptions and different personnel.

You take seven or eight frontline players out of any team and they can certainly have a bad day.

Will you learn a lot about the players in how they respond to this?

Definitely. We've just spoken about that. You find out about people when it's difficult.

When it's going good and you're going on a bit of a run at the back end of the year and everyone wants to pat you on the back – who is listening to that? Not me. Equally I won't be listening to any of the other stuff.

I'll be putting my head down and doing what's best for the club going forward. They're a good bunch who want to work. We've had a bad day, no doubt.

When you're looking at homegrown talent like Jack Sinfield, Morgan Gannon, Max Simpson and Alfie Edgell – do you think there's a core that could make Leeds a force in the coming seasons with the right recruitment around them?

The core of our group are 24, 25. Mikolaj Oledzki, Cam Smith, Harry Newman, Jarrod O'Connor – there are plenty of young guys who have had great experiences this year.

There are more kids to come. We need to add some support to those fellas to give them time.

Building teams takes time. Every competition you look at, that takes time.

Is it indicative of where the club is at that you had to put Jack Sinfield and Morgan Gannon in the halves in such a big game against Wigan?

Today I think it was jersey 1, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11 all not available. That's a big obstacle in itself.

As I said to the players, that's not an excuse but it's the reality. A lot of players are getting stretched and all playing at the same time.

Ideally when you're building, you play a couple of young players at a time to get them some experience, not six, seven, eight of them all at the same time.

There's a bunch of dudes in there playing their first year of week in, week out Super League. That's a challenge.