Doncaster RLFC: Wilkinson relishing playing alongside Cooke

Richard Wilkinson regards Dons player-coach Paul Cooke (pictured in the background) as one of his heroes. Picture: Malcolm Billingham
Richard Wilkinson regards Dons player-coach Paul Cooke (pictured in the background) as one of his heroes. Picture: Malcolm Billingham

It’s not everyone who gets the chance to play professionally alongside your boyhood heroes, but that’s how Richard Wilkinson feels everytime he pulls on a Dons shirt.

“I used to support Hull FC and I remember Paul (Cooke) playing for them in the 2006 Challenge Cup final,” said the 20-year-old.

Wilkinson has made rapid improvements since being signed from Hull U19s during the close season.

“I’m learning from playing with Paul week-by-week,” he said.

“When I first started here I drifted in and out of the team and he used to teach me one or two things in training.

“But since I’ve been playing more regularly I’m picking up more things playing alongside him which is good for me.”

Man-of-the-match in last Sunday’s 22-16 win at Castle Park, scrum-half Wilkinson said it felt strange to be playing at the Armthorpe venue.

“It felt like an away match. But I liked the wider pitch and being a half-back who is regarded as being nippy, I was able to exploit the gaps and I enjoyed it,” he said.

Wilkinson admits the win over the Cumbrians - secured by a late try - was too close for comfort but he was confident, adding: “As we showed in the 22-22 draw at Featherstone a couple of weeks earlier, we nearly always finish strongly.”

Wilkinson hopes to again be involved in tomorrow’s game at North Wales Crusaders, who have lost the services of coach Clive Griffiths since the Dons’ 20-12 win in March.

Despite the fact that they were well beaten at Featherstone last weekend, Wilkinson expects last season’s Championship One winners to be seeking revenge.

“I would be if I were one of their players,” he added.