When Tony Smith replaced Daryl Powell as head coach in November 2003 we all felt a huge sigh of relief that Minibus had finally been replaced witha bona-fide Superleague coach, and an Aussie at that. He brought with him a good track record from the Giants, but there were also a few quiet whispers about his coaching style and his propensity to make enemies easily.|
A brilliant first season saw us winning twenty-seven out of thirty three games (81.8% win) with two drawn and just four lost (Saints x2, Wigan and Bradford) whilst scoring 1037 points and conceeding just 443. We lost out in the fifth round of the Challenge Cup, but went on to Grand Final glory on the best night that any Rhinos cupporter can remember. It was a top class first season, and left the massive Rhinos following hungry for more.
The following season was therefore somewhat of a disappointment. We made two finals but lost them both. The Challenge Cup final loss blame fell fairly and squarely at the door of Smith who brought back a clearly injured Keith Senior and dropped Barrie McDermott for a game which we ultimately lost because we got dominated in the pack.
Of the thirty-six games we played we lost eight (77.8% Win) but we did score a total of 1152 points in all our Superleague regular round games whilst conceeding only 505, a net gain on the previous season.
Whilst we were disappointed, we'd still made both major finals and lost one by a whisker. We could probably put it down to a bit of bad luck and some bad judgement, but the Smith veneer was beginning to crack.
And then we come to this season...
What a terrible disappointment for all Rhinos fans, and undoubtedly the management and money men. We lost eleven out of thirty-three games played (66.6% Win) with defeats to sides of the calibre of Castleford, Huddersfield and Warrington. We exited the cup at semi-final stage with an horrific performance against the Giants, and on friday night we were disgraced by a Warrington side who came to Headingley with no hope and left with their heads held high.
This year we have slipped to 869 superleague points (47 converted tries less than last season) and shipped in 543 points. Both attack and defence have gone backwards.
So is it time for Tony to go?
If we carry on our trend of losses; 4 to 8 to 11; then we will lose fifteen next year which would have put us in fifth place in Superleague in 2006. Admittedly, we didn't break the salary cap like Saints, Bradford and Hull FC, but neither did the Giants or the Wolves, our victors in the key matches. The players don't look as though they want to play, the crowds are plummetting, the competition are leaving us standing.
To be honest, I'm surprised that we've not already had an announcement from Headingley, and perhaps Hetherington is dotting the i's and crossing the t's with a new coach before passing Tony his P45.
One thing is for sure, we can't have another season like 2006!