Blake Austin makes Rohan Smith accusations amid Leeds Rhinos exit revelations

Former Leeds Rhinos player Blake Austin has published an explosive video shedding light on his time at the club. In a clip lasting more than ten minutes, Austin gave insight into the handling of his exit from the club and some of Rohan Smith's philosophies, including short kick-offs.

Austin had a controversial exit from the Rhinos, leaving hours before the transfer deadline after joining Castleford Tigers on loan, with his contract then expiring at the end of the season. Detailing the weeks leading up to his exit, Austin accused Smith of giving back word regarding a new contract before admitting he tried to create headlines with some infamous interviews at the time.

On his exit, Austin said: “I spat the dummy a little bit for sure, but I was pretty upset with how my contract was dealt with. I was 33 years old; Rohan was aware of what I was capable of; I wasn't learning new tricks, but as it panned out, there was a game at Headingley against Huddersfield. I had a pretty good match, and we celebrated the match in the lovely sheds of Headingley after, and Rohan took it upon himself to come over and sit next to me. Basically, we had a chat to say if I’m happy to stick around, he wants me to stay for another year.

“It was a one-year contract on the same money I’m on, which was fairly modest for my abilities. As we know, Leeds don’t pay their players as well as some other clubs. But at that stage, we’d bought a house and my kids had settled, so I was very excited by that news. I knew where I was going to be for the next 12 months, or so I thought.

“Over the next six weeks, we continued playing footy; the team’s form was a bit up and down, and mine was a little bit too. But I hadn’t heard anything back from Rohan to suggest anything had changed. So I started trying to quiz my agent, to which he said it was best that I go ask for a conversation with Rohan and find out what’s going on.

“I knocked on his door, and we got engaged in a conversation, one of the harder chats that I’ve had throughout my career. Rohan is a guy I’d really learned to trust and really like, and this was the first disappointment I had with Rohan, it didn’t spell the end but it was certainly a disappointing chat.

“I knocked on the door and said, ‘that chat we had six weeks ago, I’m just checking where we’re at with it’. His reply was that there had been a few things that had happened over the last little while that had made him reconsider.

“I said well, that’s all good and well, but you engaged in conversation with me to tell me you wanted me to stick around and I felt like he enjoyed delivering that good news to me so I felt I was owed the courtesy of letting me know if things had changed.

“He acknowledged he’d got that wrong and he probably should have called me back in to let me know. Because over that six weeks I was getting asked my family, friends, players and I kept saying I was going to be here and everything was sweet.

“He gave me three pretty b******t reasons which added to my frustrations. One was that I had an epidural on my back which I never asked for, another was I had a little tiff with Cam Smith on the training paddock, it was a little back and forth, nothing major.

“The other was a fair call though, I played an away game at Leigh and I tried a bit too hard. We lost Aidan and me and Jack Sinfield were in the halves and instead of letting the young kid carry his weight in the team, I tried to shoulder both halves’ responsibilities and tried too hard and we lost the match. So I was in agreement with that one, but my biggest gripe was he didn’t feel the need to come back and let me know."

Austin then explained how, with that information in mind, he started embracing the ability to create headlines around his future.

"The next four to five weeks I got on a pretty hot spell, I got a few man of the matches, admittedly, some they gave me so I had a post-match interview as I was saying some pretty controversial things at that point. While I'd still hoped to be at the club, I'd kind of given up hope I was going to and at that point I started putting my mind down the path it could be last year of rugby league creating some entertainment, I wasn't that arsed to be honest.

“I got man of the match at Warrington and told them I don't think anyone at the club is watching me play as they haven't spoken to me about a contract. It was probably a bit of a laugh at the time but it probably not the best idea to run my mouth like that, but what are you going to do?

"I got player of the month and Jon Wilkin got to interview me, I let everyone know I had no idea where I’m at with my contract, Rohan hasn’t given me an update – and I have to watch his press conferences to find out my chances of staying at the club.

“In hindsight, it was me spitting the dummy a bit but also me not caring about the consequences of speaking about the club like that. Deep down I think the club was probably pretty upset but having said that, nobody from the club expressed that. It was an interesting time, then I got a call from Gareth Widdop who said Castleford were looking at trying to stay up and asked how I felt about helping them try to stay up and remain in Super League.

“I thought, what better way to get back at the guy that has been stuffing me around a little bit than ask for a release 12 hours before deadline day.
“It obviously left the club in a pretty tought spot and my team-mates in a tough spot and I expressed a real sorry to them guys, even though words don’t mean much as I left them in the lurch. If I had my time again I might do things differently but I thought I was owed a bit more respect than what I was getting too."

Austin would go on to claim that a big focus in the off-season was practicing short kick-offs, a tactic he was not fond of.

"There was a lot of strange things that went on," he said. "We practiced short kick-offs more than most things in the pre-season, so there was a real desire, I think, for the team to be a little bit left field. I don't know if you remember but all our trials in the first couple of rounds, in our meetings, that was what we spoke about. I didn't want to go short, I thought it was a weak option. But we spoke more about whether we're going to stick with it or not that any other form of our game plan which was a bit weird."

Furthermore, Austin believes that new halfbacks Brodie Croft and Matt Frawley are currently struggling to get to grips with the way Smith wants them to play.

"I think Brodie Croft is struggling a little bit, I think he's having a lot of similar issues to what Aidan (Sezer) was having last year. I think Aidan and Brodie are both 80, 85 kilo halfbacks that base their game around a lot of their skill. Rohan loves running halves. Matt Frawley, although he does throw a dummy every now and then, is not a running half either.

"What he expects from his halves is to run the footy. When I say run the footy, that's in good ball and also in the back field. He wants his halves running into bricks walls and I bought into that because I felt it would keep me involved in the match. But someone like Aidan and the current halves, it looks like they're struggling with that philosophy."

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