Doncaster RLFC: Cooke banishes self-doubt as Dons get off to great start

Danny Nicklas meets some Workington resistance. Picture: Paul Johnson
Danny Nicklas meets some Workington resistance. Picture: Paul Johnson

An unfamiliar feeling came over Paul Cooke before the Dons’ season opener at Workington Town – nerves.

The normally self-assured stand off admitted suffering from a bout of nerves as he questioned whether his first pre-season as head coach had been productive enough.

Such troubling thoughts gave way to the familiar feeling of victory for Cooke as the Dons got the season – and the new era – off to the best possible start with a 22-12 win in Cumbria.

“For the first time since I was playing in the 2005 Challenge Cup final, I felt nervous before a game,” Cooke told the Free Press.

“I wondered whether I’d done enough in pre-season, whether we’d done all we could and whether we’d made too many changes.

“You start to realise how new everything is and how different things are from this time last year when Tony Miller was in charge.

“I did wonder whether a lot of the things we’ve done were right or not.

“That’s not something I’m used to feeling.

“There were definitely a few doubts but thankfully it turned out well for us.”

Cooke insists his doubting thoughts quickly evaporated once the Dons kicked off, despite them falling 12-0 behind to Workington.

He said: “We didn’t start well and we were shooting ourselves in the foot by giving away possession and positions early on.

“But once we got going we were ok. I thought we played well for 65 minutes and deserved the win.

“There’s still plenty of improvement in the side but I think that is always the case with any team.

“We reviewed the game on Tuesday night and it’s put to bed now.

“The focus is on Keighley this weekend. It’s another game entirely.”

Paul March’s Keighley side visit the Keepmoat on Sunday and like the Dons, they are looking to make it two from two after sweeping aside Whitehaven at home last weekend.

Cooke said: “They’re a big, strong, physical side so we know we’re in for a tough game.

“They’re going to be as determined as we are to win again and get off to a great start.

“It’ll be difficult but we’ll have plenty of confidence going into it.”

Lee Waterman has been ruled out for three to four months with a broken wrist while prop Brett Waller will undergo a scan this week.