Former Castleford Tigers and Hull KR star Matt Cook keen to make difference with RLWC 2021 supporting role

AFTER a career making the hard yards on the field, Matt Cook is now doing the same off it in a bid to help make the 2021 Rugby League World Cup run as smoothly as possible.

SUPPORT ROLE: RLWC 2021 chief executive Jon Dutton pictured with the Rugby League World Cup Trophy. Matt Cook will play a key role when the tournament finally takes place next year. Picture by Alex Whitehead/
SUPPORT ROLE: RLWC 2021 chief executive Jon Dutton pictured with the Rugby League World Cup Trophy. Matt Cook will play a key role when the tournament finally takes place next year. Picture by Alex Whitehead/

The former Castleford Tigers and Hull KR prop, 35, retired at the end of the season having rounded off his playing days in the Championship with Widnes Vikings.

But Cook, who won the 2006 World Club Challenge in his formative years with Bradford Bulls, is keen to still have an impact on the sport.

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Working on the RLWC2021 team, for the delayed tournament now being played next autumn after Australia and New Zealand withdrew due to Covid concerns, is one of his first steps into rugby league administration.

Picture by Allan McKenzie/ Rugby League

Held predominantly in the north of England, with 61 games across 21 venues and with the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions being staged together for the first time, it is set to be the biggest World Cup yet.

With 21 nations taking part and, in the Broad Acres alone, games being showcased in Leeds, Sheffield, York, Huddersfield, Hull, Doncaster and Middlesbrough, it is a significant undertaking.

Cook is the tournament’s operations co-ordinator based in their Manchester office.

“I joined initially as an intern back in February,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

“I was working as a team services co-ordinator, speaking to the teams and helping organise things there.

“But after the tournament was postponed for 12 months, there was a restructure and I got a promotion so I am now the operations co-ordinator.

“That means I’m now looking after nations day-to-day so they are as best prepared and ready as possible for the tournament.

“There’s a fair bit of admin involved but it is exciting and I’m visiting the training venues, hotels and all the facilities they’ll be using.

“The role goes from that to sorting some of the commercial side of things as well so it’s quite varied. As the tournament kicks in, it will completely change to a different more hands-on role at the venues themselves and it’s great to be a part of it all.”

Plenty of his peers have dabbled in rugby league administration with Kevin Sinfield working at the RFL for a time and his former Bradford team-mate Jamie Peacock now working in Leeds Rhinos’ commercial department.

Ex-Salford Red Devils full-back Karl Fitzpatrick is Warrington Wolves chief executive and former Wigan Warriors and Great Britain No1 Kris Radlinski has progressed as Wigan’s executive director.

Cook, who helped Castleford finish top for the first time in 2017 and has completed a business management degree, said: “I knew for quite a while I wanted to get into the other side of the game.

“I’m interested in the business functions of our sport whether that be at club level, with the GMB union or the RFL.

“I want to contribute to the sport in another way and help progress and support it any way I can.

“I’ve done some voluntary stuff in player welfare and, for six or seven years, I’ve sat on the RFL player welfare forum and I’ve been a players’ rep for the GMB, too.

“I definitely have a passion for welfare and for the players but I probably still don’t know yet in what field I’ll land.”

Having made more than 100 appearances for Castleford, who he joined from London Broncos in 2015, he dropped down to the second tier with Widnes at the end of last year.

“As soon as I decided to go part-time with Widnes, like everyone else, I thought I had better see what’s out there job-wise,” recalled Cook, who twice played for England in the Federation Shield in 2006.

“It was on the RFL website that I saw RLWC2021 were recruiting internship roles and I thought tournament team services made perfect sense for me.

“Working on a global sporting event and working with the teams resonates with me as a player and it has been fantastic to draw on that.

“I’m loving the role and can’t wait to see the tournament come to fruition next year.”

A back injury saw his game-time limited last season and Cook conceded: “I don’t think it’s sunk in properly yet that I’ve retired.

“It was nice not having to go back to pre-season training at the start of November but I am missing the boys and that banter that you get.

“I have a new challenge now, though, with the World Cup coming up and everyone here has been fantastic.

“You still get that camerarderie and I get a buzz out of it.”