Cooke’s eyes opened to union after time with Knights

Cooke crossed the codes to work with the Knights
Cooke crossed the codes to work with the Knights

Rugby league stalwart Paul Cooke has picked up a taste for the skills of the rival code after working for the Knights.

The Dons’ head coach had no prior experience of rugby union prior to taking up his post as a part-time skills coach at the National One club last summer,

“I’ve never played the game and I don’t think I ever will, but I enjoy coaching the Doncaster players and I enjoy being part of what has been a successful group,” said Cooke.

“I enjoy watching the game a little bit more than I did; I actually know what’s going on at the breakdowns now, which I don’t suppose many league people do.

“Until you are involved in it I don’t think you do understand it. But it is one of the differences between the two games.

“Once a player is held or tackled in rugby league the game stops for a second or two, whereas rugby union never stops and when players hit the ground it becomes a competition (for the ball).”

There were questions asked at the time of Cooke’s appointment at Knights as to whether he was taking on too much, given the fact he had been named as Tony Miller’s successor at the Dons.

But Cooke is adamant that it has helped him in his new role.

“The more experience you can gain, managing people and coaching people and bringing the best out of them the better,” he claimed.

“I’m certainly enjoying my time working under the gaffer (Clive Griffiths) and learning a hell of a lot about the union game.”

Although the rival codes are no longer the bitter enemies they once were, Cooke claims there is still room for improvement.

“I think that there is a certain perception among some league players that union players are not as skilful and I fell into that category,” he admits.

“I suppose a lot of union players also question league players. But I don’t think anyone should judge either sport before they’ve tried it.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised how good the boys at Doncaster Knights are and how good they are at their job.”