PAUL COOKE hopes to fire Featherstone Rovers’ promotion claims after the former Doncaster coach announced a shock return to playing.
The ex-Hull FC and Hull KR stand-off was boss at Featherstone’s Championship rivals until barely a fortnight ago but left after a winless start to the season.
Cooke, 34, had been player-coach since the end of 2013 but retired from playing in early April to try and concentrate on improving Doncaster’s form.
However, intriguingly, he will now put his boots back on to bolster Featherstone’s bid to reach Super League and has signed until the end of the current campaign.
“I’ve been enjoying time with my family in recent weeks but after meeting (chairman) Mark Campbell and (coach) Andy Hay it feels right to come to Featherstone as a player,” said Cooke.
“It’s something I’m really looking forward to. It will be good to concentrate on just playing and once I’m in full training, in a good routine and get rid of that inevitable rustiness, I’m hoping to really contribute to the side.
“Obviously I know quite a bit about the Rovers side and their strengths so my job now is to get fit and help this side to achieve their goals.”
Cooke, with his quality kicking and passing game, has been one of the most gifted British players of his generation - and also controversial.
He inspired Hull FC to a shock Challenge Cup win over Leeds Rhinos in 2005 but, having also played in the Grand Final with the Black and Whites a year later, then made a shock switch to their city rivals Hull KR in 2007.
Cooke played briefly for Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in 2010 before taking a year out of the game and returning initially as a player/assistant coach with Doncaster in 2012.
He won Championship coach of the year last season after taking over from Tony Miller and guiding the South Yorkshire team to fourth but they lost their opening 13 games of this campaign.
Rovers head coach Andy Hay said “This is a great opportunity for us to bring in a player who is vastly experienced not only at Super League level but also the Championship.
“He’ll be a big help on the field and will bring another dimension to our play.
“He’s been a thorn in our side whenever he’s played against Featherstone in recent seasons and we are looking for more of the same in a Rovers shirt.
“When we found out that Paul joining the club as a player was a possibility we spoke to him straight away.
“He’s hungry and very enthusiastic to take this opportunity of playing behind a strong pack and also helping our younger players develop.”
Hay added: “We’ve been looking for another option at six for a while since the signing of Ryan Millard did not materialise and we are happy to have secured his signature.
“We’ll get him on to our training and conditioning programme and as soon as he’s ready to pull on a Rovers shirt we’ll introduce him to the team.
“He’ll be a fantastic asset for us for the rest of the year and I’m looking forward to working with him.”