PAUL Cooke admits he never imagined he would enjoy his return to competitive rugby league quite as much, writes Liam Hoden.
As the Dons look to double up the Championship One title with a play off win, Cooke has no regrets about his decision to put on the boots again.
He told the Free Press: “I’ve enjoyed both the playing and the community roles at the club.
“Getting back into playing was probably the tougher of the two to do for me but I’ve really enjoyed it.
“I’ve enjoyed being part of this group, meeting the players, working with the staff and I’m really looking forward to next season.
“It helps when you’re part of a team that’s winning games and scoring plenty of tries.
“It’s been a great year.
“Winning this title is up there with what I’ve achieved in the past in my career.
“This group of players have come a long way and it’s been a big journey for me as well.”
Former Super League ace Cooke says he always had a feeling the Dons would achieve big things this season.
“I didn’t know too much about the team when I first arrived but after seeing them in the Hunslet friendly I was confident,” he said.
“We were pretty much written off at the beginning of the year and people didn’t expect us to make the top four and go for promotion.
“I thought with a few tweaks and with a little bit of direction we could be there or there abouts.
“Thankfully the boys bought into everything the coach asked and with that direction and a bit of confidence, we’ve managed to win the league.
“I think Tony Miller deserves a hell of a lot of credit, as do Carl Hall and John Scarrow, the people at the club you don’t see.
“We’ve talked about the dark times with the defeat to the amateur club but there are people behind the scenes who have worked hard through those times who deserve as much credit as the players.”
Cooke has signed on for another season with the Dons and is looking forward to the step up to Championship standard.
He said: “I’m really looking forward to next season.
“The next step for this group of players next season and in the play offs is learning to win big games and play in tight games.
“Victories by 40 and 50 points are no good to anybody when you make that step up.
“We need to learn to play smarter and better football against the teams we’re going to come up against next season.
“But we’re going to enjoy what we’ve done so far and what’s left of this season first because the boys have done really well and I’m proud of them.”