FORMER COACH Paul Cooke is enjoying being a player again, after linking up with Featherstone Rovers.
Cooke was Kingstone Press Championship coach of the year in 2014, after guiding Doncaster to fourth place in the table, but they failed to win a game under him this term and he left by mutual consent earlier this month, before joining rivals Rovers as a player only.
The 34-year-old scored two tries on his debut in the 42-34 win at Hunslet Hawks two days ago, before going off due to a calf strain and said: “It is nice just to concentrate on one job, that’s to play the game and not all the other stuff that goes with it.
“It has been a tough few weeks of training and it was good to get back out there and play. The reason I finished playing was it became too much to do everything: watching videos, cutting videos, planning sessions and then trying to train as well on top of that, as well as holding down another job.
“Nobody else could coach the team at Donny and that fell to me, so finishing playing wasn’t really on my terms. It is just nice to get into training and do nothing else but concentrate on playing.”
Cooke said he will play on until the end of this season and “then we’ll see where we’re at” before he decides whether to continue next year.
The former Hull, Hull KR and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats man’s addition to the squad is a boost to Rovers’ hopes of finishing in the top-four. He said: “We’ve got plenty of quality players. We can play the game quick, we can play at a tempo which a lot of other teams in the competition can’t. We want to push now for a top-four place and a place in the middle-eights. I am enjoying my time here. The boys are really good and I am just one of them, playing and doing nothing but that.”
Rovers travel to leaders Bradford Bulls tomorrow and Cooke admitted: “That will be a tough one. They have a big chance of going back into Super League, in my opinion. Jimmy and Karl [coaches James Lowes and Karl Harrison] have got a really nice squad together that complement each other.
“They’re missing Lee Gaskell at the moment, but they’ve still got plenty of quality in their team. It’s going to be a tough ask for us, but one I know everybody at the club’s looking forward to.”
As for his long-term future, Cooke said he has not given up on coaching. He is continuing on the backroom staff at Doncaster Knights Rugby Union Club and added: “It’s not the end of it for me with regards rugby league and coaching.
“The next six months will decide that for me, but I am really lucky I can still put some boots on and have a game and hopefully play to a level which will help the group.”