Doncaster RLFC: Squad given time off ahead of season climax

Craig Robinson feels the force of Lewis Sheridan and Alex Trumper during Dons' win at Rochdale.
Craig Robinson feels the force of Lewis Sheridan and Alex Trumper during Dons' win at Rochdale.

Paul Cooke has given his squad a well-deserved break ahead of their last two Championship games.

“We haven’t got a game this weekend due to the Challenge Cup final,” said Dons’ player coach.

“I’ve given them all a break until Tuesday when we’ll start preparing for a massive game against Halifax at the Keepmoat Stadium on Sunday week.

“The boys will have had eight days off by then, much needed if I’m honest, and they are free to let their hair down.

“We’ve not stipulated that they’ve got to do any training, though I’m sure some of them will probably be going down to their local gym. It’s up to each individual.”

Cooke, who has told his players not to make any comment on the decision to dock the club three points for fielding an ineligible player at Keighley last month, and the subsequent appeal to the RFL, is hoping the issue will be resolved before next Tuesday.

Although he feels that the club are well placed to climb even higher than their current fourth place were the RFL to overturn the decision of an independent tribunal last week, Cooke says he is not getting his hopes up and claims the return of any lost points would be a bonus.

Despite having played in a Challenge Cup final, Cooke will not be joining the club’s coach trip to Wembley on Saturday – choosing to attend a social function with his wife.

Despite gates again being well down in this year’s competition – as the league becomes ever more the top priority - Cooke still feels that the Challenge Cup has a special place in the game.

“It still gives the best opportunity for many clubs to win a trophy, or reach a major final and that is shown by Castleford getting there,” he said.

“It is probably the only chance that some of their players will have of winning some silverware during their career.

“It’s not easy, unless you play for the likes of Leeds, St Helens, Warrington and Wigan.

“I’ve only had two opportunities in a career spanning nearly 15 years, so these games don’t come up very often for most players.”

Looking ahead to the first all-Yorkshire final at Wembley in more than 20 years, Cooke said: “The smart money is probably on Leeds because they’ve got a lot of big players who’ve played in big games, but people wrote off Castleford in the quarter-final at Wigan and they came up with the goods.

“Both teams are in great form. It should be a hell of a game.”