Wakefield Trinity v Hull KR: Cooke ready to respond to challenge of former clubs

Engage super league: IF YOU did not know any better, you might think Paul Cooke had planned it all.

A player who has been followed as much for his controversy as his talent in recent years, is readying himself for a week which could prove decisive in deciding where Wakefield finish this season.

The fact the crucial games are against Cooke's former clubs – Hull KR tomorrow and Hull FC next Saturday – is merely a sub-plot in which the stand-off finds himself entwined.

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If Wakefield could achieve victory in both, they would catapult themselves into Super League's top-eight mix, from which they currently lie a point off the pace.

The situation is not lost on Cooke, who joined in March after being frozen out at Rovers by coach Justin Morgan.

"It is a big week for myself but not in respect of facing both my old clubs," he told the Yorkshire Post.

"It is more important than any one player. It is because the actual two teams we are playing are at home and we believe we can get four points from these fixtures.

"Rovers are around us in the table (seventh) and if we can apply ourselves against them and Hull we'll be up there with a chance."

Cooke spent yesterday in home-town Hull lunching with some of his erstwhile team-mates, many of whom, Kris Welham, Scott Wheeldon and Ben Fisher included, will tackle him tomorrow for the first time since the acrimonious split.

Cooke, who caused a storm by joining Rovers from city rivals Hull in 2007, failed to live up to his star billing at Craven Park and endured a troubled relationship with Morgan, who ruthlessly dropped him earlier this season prompting the unexpected switch to West Yorkshire.

But the 29-year-old has earned a reputation as being able to shine against his former employers, regularly tormenting Hull with Rovers, and most expect him to rise to the occasion tomorrow.

"I'm looking forward to getting out there and playing whoever it is," insisted Cooke, "but it's a little extra special being my old club and the way things ended there weren't particularly pleasant.

"I've sat down and spoke with our coach John Kear about their offensive threats, where we can maybe exploit them and the structure of their team. Hopefully, it will come to fruition."

Rovers scrum-half Michael Dobson is seen as the key threat, their reliance on the former Canberra star something that possibly strangled the creative skills of Cooke during his three-year stay.

"Ninety-nine per cent of their play is through their seven," he said.

"He does the job of the seven and the six. If you can shut him down along with the other two Australians – Ben Galea and Clint Newton – you are on the way.

"Justin puts a lot of trust in his Australians to get them results and they are a really hard-working pair while Rhys Lovegrove has been their best front rower this season and Scott Murrell is getting a little bit more responsibility than I had as stand-off at Hull KR."

That final statement speaks volumes about where Cooke feels it all went wrong for him at Craven Park but experiences with Wakefield have not been much kinder.

However, they ended a barren run of just one win in nine games by thrashing Crusaders 41-0 in Wrexham on Sunday despite being held up for more than three hours after an incident on the M62.

Relaxed Cooke, who admitted he passed time on the stranded bus by sleeping, produced a performance which was ominously near his best and he feels they can now push on.

"We did all the little things right to give ourselves a chance of winning and that makes us dangerous," he added. "We've just got to repeat that now against Rovers."

Cooke has missed just one game with Wakefield but faces an uncertain future with his short-term deal expiring at the end of the season.

Inevitably, given his colourful past, there is plenty of speculation about his next move and one suggestion is he could even return to Hull, whom he helped win the 2005 Challenge Cup before that shock cross-city transfer.

"That's probably just a rumour," said Cooke. "I still speak to the coach there and the assistant at Hull so that's how that might have started.

"I'd never say never but I think it's highly unlikely I'll be going back there.

"Nothing's sorted here yet. The club's not spoken to me. I've not got another contract yet or another club. I'm still a Wakefield player."

Morgan, who has struggled to replace Cooke, is hopeful of finally doing so by signing Melbourne stand-off Brett Finch.

The 28-year-old – out of contract at the end of the season – has also been linked with a move to Wigan, where former Melbourne assistant coach Michael Maguire is working.

But Finch's relationship with Morgan, which stretches back to their time playing together at Canberra, and ex-Storm colleague Newton, could persuade him to move to Craven Park.