HULL KR’S Ben Cockayne will make his 300th career appearance at Dewsbury Rams tomorrow – opponents he has surprisingly revealed were his first proper professional club.
The winger did not actually play in the paid ranks until, at the relatively late age of 21, having a brief stint for Hunslet Hawks in 2004 before making his mark at Doncaster the following season.
From there, of course, Cockayne moved on to Hull KR in 2006 for the first of two spells at Craven Park where he has become such a legend, chalking up more than 200 appearances for the Robins. But the 33-year-told The Yorkshire Post: “It’s quite funny this 300th game is at Dewsbury. A lot of people won’t know this as I’ve never really mentioned it much before, but I played for Dewsbury Rams’ academy side when I was a kid.
“I was probably only 15 or 16 but I played a fair bit for them and did a season down there.
“My amateur coach at Normanton Knights, John Barnett, also did some coaching at Dewsbury and he probably helped get me in.
“Nothing came of it, though, as I don’t think I was good enough; I was always competitive but played as a half-back as a kid and was never really that skilful, at least not at that level. Dewsbury probably didn’t see much in me.”
However, 299 games later, Cockayne has certainly made his mark in the sport.
Admittedly, though, until suffering relegation with Hull KR in that dramatic Million Pound Game last season, he could certainly never have envisaged marking this milestone fixture back in the second-tier.
But ahead of tomorrow’s game, which has been his favourite 80 minutes so far?
“It has to be getting promoted into Super League with Rovers,” said the Wakefield-born player, referring to the 2006 National League One Grand Final win over Widnes.
“It was one day I really enjoyed especially going back to that time at Dewsbury and thinking I’d never even turn pro’.
“I ended up joining the Army at 17, instead, and it wasn’t until I got that crack at Doncaster through Billy Conway – who was such a big influence on me – that things changed.”
Of course, it would be perfect symmetry to round off this year by earning another promotion to Super League with Rovers again.
They have won their opening five games of the Championship campaign so far but have been pushed hard at both Rochdale Hornets and London Broncos.
Cockayne, who played nine games for Featherstone Rovers in 2011 before another 56 in Wakefield colours between 2012-13, said: “Life in the Championship has certainly not been a surprise to me in terms of how tough and stubborn some teams can be.
“It might have surprised some of the other lads but we have had a good start and now we just have to continue that.
“It’d be great to go straight back up and, regardless of whether I play on again in 2018 or end up finishing, that would be brilliant.
“There’s a lot of work to do but with a coach like Tim Sheens leading us we have a great chance.”
Struggling Dewsbury, meanwhile, are still searching for a first win after losses against Rochdale, Swinton, Toulouse and London.