SouthStander.com Hall of Fame
Leeds Career: 2003-2007
Photograph by kind permission and © Rlphotos.com
Since the 1999 Challenge Cup success under Graham Murray, the Rhinos had been trophyless for five long years under the stewardship of Dean Lance and Daryl Powell. In an attempt to revitalise winning ways, Gary Hetherington brought in Australian Tony Smith from Huddersfield Giants. His initial appointment was greeted with scepticism and concern from the Rhinos faithful but by the 16th October 2004, within a year of his arrival, those critics were eating their own words.
Born in Lismore (NSW) on the 24th January 1967, Tony played his rugby league for Illawara Steelers and St George Dragons, for whom he made a losing Grand Final appearance in 1992, before finishing his career in the wilds of Workington. His first coaching role was at Huddersfield Giants who were relegated in his first season, but who bounced straight back into Superleague in 2002.
His appointment at Headingley, starting in November 2003, was a surprise to the Leeds supporters, and it saw Daryl Powell moved 'upstairs' before taking on duties with the rugby union outfit.
Smith soon showed he had the midas touch losing just 12% of his games in an inaugral season which saw the Rhinos win the Minor Premiership by nine clear points, and defeat second placed Bradford Bulls in an epic game at Old Trafford. Little more was required of Tony, he was already a 'god' in the eyes of a trophy starved Leeds public and had achieved more than any coach in over thirty years. It was the first time that Leeds had been champions since the 1971-72 season. Tony followed this win up in February 2005 when the Rhinos were crowned World Club Champions after a memorable victory over the Canterbury Bulldogs at Elland Road.
The remainder of 2005, and 2006 were less successful, although Smith still steered the Rhinos to the Grand Final in 2005 and the Challenge Cup Final in the same year.
Early in 2007 it was announced that Tony would be leaving the Rhinos at the end of the season to take over as Great Britain coach. Many Rhinos supporters gave up any hope of silverware at that point, but Tony Smith was determined to leave Headingley on the same high as he'd felt in his first season. Despite patchy results throughout the season the Rhinos hit peak form when it mattered and the last two games of Smiths' reign saw stunning and comprehensive victories over Wigan and then St. Helens in the 2007 Grand Final.
But his time at Leeds was not only about silverware. He continued to improve the Academy sides, brought through quality players like Mathers, McGuire and Burrow, and was instrumental in the signature of such greats as Jamie Peacock and Brent Webb. Often perceived as reckless, the Rhinos style of play was once again open and flowing, much to the delight of the SouthStanders.
Two Superleague Grand Final Wins out of three appearances, a World Club Championship, and a Challenge Cup final lost in the cruelest of circumstances mean that Tony Smith had the best Leeds coaching record in living memory. Over the time of his tenure we have been the most successful side in terms of Grand Final wins - the pinnacle of our domestic game.
There is no doubting that Tony Smith is a worthy inductee into the SouthStander.com 'Hall of Fame' to join previous playing great Barrie McDermott. We all wish Tony every continued success in his new role with GB and thank him for the success that he has brought to our club over the last four years.
All Rhinos games including Challenge Cup, Play Offs and the World Club Challenge (not friendlies).
|Season||Games||Won||Drawn||Lost||Points For||Points Against|