YOU know Ben Cockayne is speaking from the heart when he says leaving Wakefield Trinity Wildcats for Hull KR was a “really tough” decision.
He is one of those no-nonsense, utterly dedicated and driven professional sportsmen who give 100 per cent each week and expects nothing less from those around him.
Subsequently, the 30-year-old winger is not someone to spout platitudes.
Cockayne faces Wakefield tomorrow for the first time since leaving them last November, in favour of an emotional return to Craven Park where he had established cult status earlier in his career.
Yet, after a brief spell at Featherstone Rovers, Trinity had done so much in helping resurrect his game during the last two years after that initial stint in East Yorkshire was ended for disciplinary reasons.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Cockayne admitted: “When I first found out Rovers wanted me I did get a little excited.
“But, at the same time, I wondered if it was the right thing to do as I’d made so many friends at Wakey and that bunch of blokes there – not just as players – was the best bunch I’ve ever played with.
“Wakefield made it clear I could stay if I wanted but, in the end, I also wanted to reunite with Hull KR and repay them for giving me my first real chance in the game.
“I knew I had some unfinished business, too, as I didn’t finish here on the best of terms but it was a real hard thing to do.”
Trinity, who had been selling players to ease financial problems, secured an undisclosed fee for Cockayne who, despite his advanced years, had forced his way into the England elite training squad for the first time while at Belle Vue.
He scored 28 tries in 54 Super League games for them but will be striving to inflict the damage tomorrow.
Hull KR, who ended an eight-game losing run by beating Bradford Bulls on Sunday, will rise above their visitors if they succeed. “I am looking forward to it,” admitted Cockayne, who first joined Rovers in 2006 when they were still in National League One.
“But more for us to get sorted out as a team and get some momentum going.
“We’ve had a lot of new players bedded in and, though it’s no excuse, injuries and suspensions too. There was some good signs against Bradford but – no disrespect – they were light in the forwards and lost Matt Diskin and Adam Sidlow early too.
“They weren’t as threatening as they could be but we know Wakey will; it’s going to be a tough encounter.”
The West Yorkshire side – despite all their firesales last autumn – have racked up 50-plus point scorelines in wins over Catalan and London before pushing leaders St Helens close on Sunday. “They remind me a bit of my first year there,” recalled Cockayne, when, after emerging from administration, coach Richard Agar assembled almost an entirely new team that went on to actually reach the play-offs.
“This team has been thrown together too but from my experience there I know we became really close, tight and had great camaraderie.
“It looks like they’ve done the same again, certainly by those big wins, while some people say they were hard done by against Saints.
“Wakey are heading in the right direction.”
Cockayne, meanwhile, was one of Rovers’ best performers against Bradford after filling in for the injured Greg Eden at full-back and offering plenty of spark.
Eden is in the 19-man squad tomorrow but it remains to be seen whether he will be fully recovered from a broken toe in time.
“I enjoyed it at full-back and it is where I started my career,” continued Pontefract-born Cockayne. “I had a decent game but I’ll play anywhere for the team.
“It’ll be interesting to see if Greg’s fit in the morning (Saturday) as he’s not trained properly with us all week.”
Rovers are without suspended ex-Wakefield prop Justin Poore while back-row Jamie Langley, who started his career at Wakefield-based Normanton Knights just like Cockayne, is misses with a hamstring pull.
Graeme Horne drops out too meaning Jason Netherton, Rhys Lovegrove and Aaron Ollett are all drafted in.