GIVEN he has waited so long to make a first major final appearance, Castleford Tigers’ Matt Cook is not going to risk messing up now.
The experienced prop takes on Hull FC tonight looking, like a few of the League Leaders’ Shield winners, to cement his place for next Thursday’s Super League semi-final.
Although the former Hull KR and London Broncos forward has made 20 appearances this term, he knows nothing is for certain with Daryl Powell’s deep and talented squad.
Furthermore, Cook – approaching his 31st birthday – has had to bide his entire career for such a chance to push for Old Trafford despite being with Bradford Bulls when they famously won the 2005 title.
“That was my rookie year at Bradford,” he said.
“I played a handful of games but unfortunately got injured that season – although that team was so good I wouldn’t have been picked for Old Trafford anyway, not in my rookie year.
“But they went on to win the Grand Final and I remember thinking this will be me – winning medals and trophies every year. How young and naive!
“I did win the World Club Challenge with Bulls in 2006 but it’s now 12 years later and I have still not had the pleasure of going out there to try and win a Grand Final or Challenge Cup.
“This is one of my best chances of going to achieve that and this is all I’ve ever played the game for – to win trophies.
“I’ll be trying my best to make sure I’m in that squad to start with the semi and then hopefully the final.”
Powell said earlier this week that just one spot is potentially up for grabs for next week.
It could be in the competitive ‘middles’ role and Cook is aware he needs to impress although he is back firing after a two-month lay-off following a knee injury suffered at the end of May.
“Before the scan had come back I was pretty scared about that,” he recalled.
“I thought it would be season-ending but luckily it wasn’t and it was grade two medial which is about middle of the road.
“It was nice as soon as I knew I’d be looking at seven or eight weeks tops, I was happy to take it as an opportunity to really work on my fitness, my strength and getting my body nice and fresh to try and get back in the team.
“I’m still working hard to earn that spot for the business end but I do feel good, fresh and ready to go. Everyone’s excited here.”