Doncaster aiming to limit the damage, says Cooke

Paul Cooke
Paul Cooke
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He played a heroic part in Hull FC’s famous 2005 Challenge Cup final victory, but Paul Cooke insists he will not be recounting that tale even once when trying to inspire Doncaster this weekend.

Furthermore, the South Yorkshire club’s player-coach insists that his part-timers, for all their impressive start in the Championship, simply “cannot beat” Warrington Wolves in Sunday’s fifth-round tie.

So, no “magic of the cup” rhetoric here, then.

But it is not reverse psychology, just a heavy dose of realism from Cooke, who memorably scored a last-gasp winning try in the 
Airlie Birds’ evocative triumph over Leeds Rhinos nine years ago.

“That was a special day for me and my family and it will live long in the memory,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “But it’s forgotten for me now as a player and coach at Doncaster as it will have no relevance Sunday. We had a talk after our game at Sheffield last week on just how good Warrington are.

“We could do ourselves some real damage if we put in a poor performance against them.

“We know we’ve got no chance of going there and winning, but we can do ourselves proud by putting in a performance worthy of the Doncaster shirt.

“Whoever goes out there has to put in a display warranting that.

“We need to manage ourselves over the next eight weeks (in the Championship) and a bad performance at Warrington could really set us back in doing that.”

Cooke has enjoyed an excellent start as player-coach at Doncaster after – having played two seasons for the club and aided their promotion from Championship One – taking over from Tony Miller at the end of last season.

Always one of the most gifted players of his era, admittedly with a fair bit of controversy following the stand-off after nine years at Hull and then Hull KR, he has relished the chance to impart his obvious knowledge of the game.

Unfancied Doncaster sit third, with six victories from their first eight games, the last of which came in Sunday’s 42-34 derby win at champions Sheffield Eagles.

As part of a dual-registration partnership with Hull, they had England Knights centre Joe Arundel and ex-Bradford Bulls winger Jason Crookes in their side for that game plus prop Chris Green.

Will Cooke – who played with Hull coach Lee Radford for the Black and Whites and also coached alongside him at amateurs East Hull – be having a quiet word about getting extra reinforcements in for Sunday as well?

The East Yorkshire side were, of course, eliminated from the Challenge Cup after an extra-time loss to Salford so there will be scope for movement between the two.

“I spoke to Radders to see if I can get Richard Horne, Gaz Ellis and Garreth Carvell but I’m not holding much hope,” said Cooke.

“We’ve Liam Kent on a month’s loan and if they (Hull) want Green to get a bit more game time and Crookes – who has been out for six months – they could get another game for us, too, but we’ll have to see how Hull have fared.”

Hull beat London Broncos 40-4 on Monday at the same time as Warrington were surprisingly shipping the same amount of points in defeat at Castleford.

Cooke, 33, was at Wheldon Road to watch his club’s next opponents first hand but maintains there is no chance of an upset.

“I think the days of big shocks are gone regards full-time v part-time squads and a top-four Super League club who were Grand Finalists last year and have been regular Challenge Cup winners in recent seasons,” he insisted.

Featherstone Rovers certainly proved otherwise in 2012 when ejecting Castleford. However, for now, Cooke is concentrating on his side, who are yet to discover optimum form.

“We’ve won some games we had no right to win,” he said. “That’s really pleasing in some ways, but over the last fortnight we’ve probably only done two field training sessions as we’ve had that many players missing.

“We’re just trying to get through games and grind out results. We’re doing that without playing great football.”

Cooke – who took a year out of the sport in 2011 after a difficult season at Wakefield and to spend time with his terminally ill mother – is refreshed.

He is also assisting Clive Griffiths at National One rugby union club Doncaster Knights and admitted: “We’ve one more game for the Knights down in London at Blackheath on Saturday and if we win that we’re promoted.

“I’m really enjoying that, everything with Doncaster (RL) and my home life’s great, too, so it’s all very busy but fantastic as well.”