The Argument In Favour
In reality, I need do no more for this piece than mention that he’s Leeds most successful coach ever, the only coach to guide them to two championships. That should be enough. A coach who guides his team to two Championships, a League Leaders Shield, a World Club Championship and runners up in a Grand Final and a Challenge Cup final within four years would walk into a hall of fame at all other clubs let alone a club with such a history of under achieving as Leeds. We’ve NEVER had a period of success like Tony brought us over these past four seasons. He’s succeeded where some of the biggest names in Rugby League have failed. Although 2005 and 2006 didn’t bring silverware his four years have brought a level of consistency never heard of. In the regular rounds his teams have compiled more points than any other and out of thirteen games against the hated Bulls he’s won nine.
Aside from the trophies he’s also brought through many talented junior players and leaves the first team in excellent shape for McLennan to take over. Only Senior is the wrong side of thirty and the rest of the squad have been playing together for quite some time. Unlike the 2004 squad it feels like this one has not yet reached its peak.
He’s had his critics amongst our supporters. Talk of an unhappy dressing room, an aloof approach and the alienation of his support staff never seemed to go away from the message board. I don’t know if any of that was true or not (read the quotes below) but if it was then he’s an even better coach for achieving the title in the face of it all.
I’ll leave the final words to the people who know him best, his players.
"A lot of the good things in my life are because of Tony Smith and I'll be indebted to him for the rest of my life."
"He's a great leader and his knowledge of the game is unbelievable. He has an answer for everything. He's just a fantastic bloke."
"To win the Grand Final in your last game is a massive send-off and he thoroughly deserves it because he puts his heart and soul into the game."
"I said before the game he would be the greatest Leeds coach ever - so there's your line"
"I said to Tony after the game, I can't thank him enough for what he's done for me over these last four years. He's turned me into a lot better player. He has added a lot to my game and I feel I've developed every year under him. I'll be sad to see him go"
Unless you know better than these lads I trust you’ll be voting Tony into the Southstander.com 'Hall of Fame'.
The Argument Against
by Anonymous (for fear of recriminations)
Tony Smith took over at the Rhinos in 2004, when we had a great mix of local youth (Mathers, Burrow, McGuire, Walker, Bailey, etc) and seasoned experience (Furner, McDermott, Senior, etc) and rode the wave to glory in his first SL Grand Final. There can be no doubt that we were worthy winners that year, and that we played some sparkling rugby along the way. The question I’d ask is how much of that is down to the coach and how much is down to the players?
The following year started where ’04 had left off, and we won the WCC against a second string Canterbury side, who very nearly caused us some serious embarrassment. It appeared that 2005 would be another promising year, but serious selection errors cost us the CC Final, and we looked shot by the time we made the GF against the Bulls.
2006 was an interesting year for the Rhinos, with some thrilling rugby sandwiched between some awful displays, and ultimately it was a year that promised much and failed to deliver, yet again, with a thoroughly disappointing first round playoff defeat at home to a Warrington team we had thrashed only weeks earlier. Doubts came to mind about how good Tony Smith was at raising the players for the big games as this was now very much his team and it was failing to reach the potential that we saw when he took over for the ’04 season.
So we come bang upto date now with 2007, and Smith’s final year. There can be little doubt that we have performed minor miracles to win the GF after the way we have played at times this year, and this is more due to the desire of the players rather than the tactics of the coach IMO. We have played well at times, and dreadfully at others (away to Wigan springs to mind!!!) but have managed to peak at the right time, with other clubs fading away into the distance badly as the silverware was handed out in October.
So to sum up, it can never be denied that Tony Smith has been a good coach for Leeds, he’s won a few trophies, but is he a great? I’d argue that there have been too many major mistakes (dropping McDermott for CCF, playing Senior in the same game, not replacing Bai,) and too many poor performances in big games (Warrington playoffs, Hull CCF) for him to be considered a real great.
What do you think?
So there we have it. Make up your own mind and cast your vote as to whether Tony should join Barrie McDermott, forever immortalised in the SouthStander.com 'Hall of Fame'.