DONCASTER Knights assistant coach Paul Cooke says the squad has needed to be “kicked, kicked again and then built back up” ahead of tonight’s Championship trip to Richmond.
The South Yorkshire club have had fully 12 days to stew over their embarrassing 46-29 home defeat to Cornish Pirates, a painful loss that was played out in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
We kicked the players and kicked the players again on the Tuesday, started building them back up Wednesday and Thursday and then have done some really good work this weekDoncaster Knights’ assistant Paul Cooke
Their was plenty to unpick afterwards and Cooke – in situ again for a second stint at Castle Park after 18 months back in rugby league with Leigh Centurions - admitted they had plenty of work to do.
“That was my first game back and I’d little time with the players leading up to that but there were some things we needed to desperately fix up,” he recalled, with fourth-placed Doncaster losing ground on the frontrunners.
“We kicked the players and kicked the players again on the Tuesday, started building them back up Wednesday and Thursday and then have done some really good work this week into the captain’s run this morning.
“Hopefully, that can all come to fruition at Richmond.
“It’s a big couple of weeks for us as we then have Bedford at home – two games we desperately need to win before breaking off for the B&I Cup.
“We have to chase (leaders) Bristol and Ealing and to do that we have to get back to our DNA as that performance we had against Cornish was very un-Doncaster like.”
Cooke, 36, spent three seasons working with Knights director of rugby Clive Griffiths before taking up an assistant-coach role at Leigh, helping them earn promotion in 2016.
They were immediately relegated after just one season in Super League and Leigh parted company with Cooke.
However, that coincided neatly with his replacement at Doncaster – former Bradford Bulls head coach Francis Cummins – returning to rugby league himself as an assistant at Widnes Vikings.
Cooke, who helped Doncaster reach a first-ever Championship final in 2016, accepted Griffiths’s invite to return and said: “It is good to be here again.
“I’m getting up to speed, learning about some new players, some new plays and structures so I’m slowly getting there.
“They always say you should never go back but I kind of think this is actually a different role and we’ll see what the next 12, 24 or 36 months brings. There were only a few reasons why I left in the first place.
“I needed some assurances from Clive and that made it a lot easier when we spoke.
“We spoke to each other about the good and bad times at both clubs over the 18 months I was away and he is a good friend of mine. It is a good fit.”
Tonga flanker Jack Ram makes his first appearance of the season for Doncaster, who are also boosted by the return to fitness of ex-Rotherham full-back Charlie Foley and centre Will Owen.