Paul Cooke shows commitment to York Knights by volunteering to work for free

Paul Cooke has demonstrated his commitment to the long-term project at York Knights by volunteering to work for free in 2024.

Cooke recently joined the Knights as an assistant after six years out of the coaching game.

The 42-year-old originally held talks with York about joining ahead of the 2025 campaign but was so keen to get started that he agreed to work on an expenses basis.

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"I've got a contract in place for next season (2025) part-time or full-time dependent on what happens with IMG and Super League," he told The Yorkshire Post.

"The long-term vision is to get enough IMG points to be in the elite division. Ideally they want me to go in on a full-time basis in 2025.

"When I went to meet Hendo (Andrew Henderson, head coach) and Clint (Goodchild, owner), I offered to go in for free this year. If you're going to coach, you've got to be all in. They then agreed to pay me expenses.

"If I can influence the players this year, there isn't as much of a transition as if I went in full-time next year.

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"If the club is still part-time, I've got a contract in place and if it goes full-time, there's a contract in place."

Paul Cooke is back in coaching. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/ Cooke is back in coaching. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/
Paul Cooke is back in coaching. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/

Cooke knew from the early stages of his discussions with York that it was the right fit for him.

The Hull native did not hesitate to go all in, regardless of the pay situation.

"It had to be that way for me," added Cooke.

"To go into the meeting in the first place when I haven't been to any meetings in the last three or four years means it pricked my ears up.

Paul Cooke during his time with Wakefield. (Photo: Vaughn Ridley/ Cooke during his time with Wakefield. (Photo: Vaughn Ridley/
Paul Cooke during his time with Wakefield. (Photo: Vaughn Ridley/
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"Some other jobs I've had a look at, I've rang other people for their advice. I rang Tony Smith about a couple of jobs. The fact I had to ring him told me I wasn't committed. If I need to ask someone's advice on it professionally, I'm probably not committed.

"It was an interesting one when I met Hendo and Clint because the club's vision and the city, it's an exciting place to be.

"The IMG system has helped clubs in the lower leagues to have a longer-term vision. York have got that. The stadium is great and the facilities where we train are fantastic. Now it's a case of getting an invite into the big one."

Cooke won the Championship Coach of the Year award during an 18-month spell in charge of Doncaster and was an assistant at Leigh Leopards from 2016 to 2017, while he also enjoyed two spells with rugby union side Doncaster Knights as skills and backs coach.

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The former England half-back, who made 405 appearances as a player, is ready to pass on his knowledge in his new role at York.

"I'm working with the back five on edge plays and positional play in attack and defence," said Cooke, Hull FC’s hero in the 2005 Challenge Cup final.

"Educating the halves will be important as well. We've got an on-field coach if you like in Richie Myler.

"What signing Will Dagger did for me was it allowed me to think about attacking in a different way to the standard lead lines for the full-back on the sweep.

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"We can have a look at different ways to attack because we've got some pace at full-back. That allows me to think outside the box in terms of edge attack.

"Part of the education for the half-backs at the club and part of my job is for them to recognise opportunities. The games I've seen from last year, we missed some opportunities and the spine of the team have to take responsibility for that. You're the brains of the team."

Cooke has become a respected radio and television pundit since his last coaching role.

He will combine his punditry work with his commitments at York, which amount to three nights a week during pre-season.

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Cooke is open to a permanent return to coaching but knows the sport may have other plans for him.

"The thing for me in rugby league is that if you plan too far ahead, it never quite works out," said the former Hull KR and Wakefield Trinity playmaker, who is into his third week at York.

"It's happened to me already in my career where somebody taps you on the shoulder and that's it.

"I'm really enjoying being back amongst the players and trying to improve them not just as rugby players but young people.

"We'll see where the journey takes us. I want to stay in coaching as long as possible but rugby league never lets you get too far ahead of yourself."

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