Doncaster RLFC: Cooke looking for right recipe against Super League giants

Paul Cooke
Paul Cooke

Doncaster Rugby League Club fans will get their first look at Paul Cooke’s new-look squad in action in Sunday’s opening pre-season friendly against Hull FC at the Keepmoat Stadium (3pm).

Several of the Super League club’s players who turned out for the Dons last season as part of the dual-registration scheme are expected to feature.

And with the partnership having being extended to cover the 2015 campaign, some of the Hull club’s younger players on view could become regular features in Cooke’s squad.

The game against the Black and Whites provided an excellent workout for both sides 12 months ago and both camps will be looking for a similarly keenly-contested game.

A good friend of his Hull counterpart, Lee Radford, Cooke plans to give all his squad the chance to press their claims to feature in the opening Championship fixture at relegated London Broncos on February 15 over the next month.

But, if last season’s pre-season campaign is anything to go by, he will not unduly chop and change throughout the four warm-up games.

He will, however, look at experimenting in key positions – including half-back and full-back - so that he is aware of who can fill in where during an emergency.

The decision to play three top-flight clubs, including both of last season’s Challenge Cup finalists, will be seen as a gamble in some quarters.

Particularly so if the likes of Hull, who finished strongly last season, Castleford and Leeds bring strong squads to the Keepmoat.

But Cooke obviously feels he will learn more about his charges, even if the results go against his charges, than he would do beating lower opposition.

Four successive home games against some of the biggest clubs in the game also gives the club an opportunity to grow their support base prior to their first home league game against Featherstone Rovers on February 22.