Hull KR fullback has called the Million Pound Game concept a “disgrace” – and has questioned whether a game of this significance aligns with the RFL’s policy on player welfare and mental health.
Cockayne will be in the Rovers side who face Salford on Saturday knowing only victory will guarantee them a spot in Super League for 2017 in the sudden-death shootout for the 12th and final Super League place.
And the 33-year-old insists the concept needs careful attention paying to as the ramifications of defeat for one team will be felt over the weekend.
“I think the concept is a disgrace, to be honest,” he said. “On Sunday morning there will be a group of people without a job, that’s the top and bottom of it – and I’m not just talking about playing staff.
“At the end of the game there’s nothing to celebrate – as if you’re on the winning side you’re faced with a bunch of people that you respect who you play a tough sport against numerous times a season who will be out of a job. Or if you’re on the losing side you’re out of a job yourself. It’s something that needs looking at.”
Cockayne also warned that the game is not helpful for the mental health of players; last year, some Wakefield players described the build-up to their participation in the first ever Million Pound Game as the worst week of their lives. He said: “We talk about mental health a lot in our sport; well this isn’t good for your mental health, I can tell you.
“We talk about promoting good mental health in rugby league but there’s people who will either lose their jobs or get their salary chopped and see their families in all sorts of financial trouble.
He continued: “I’d be disappointed if my team-mates were jumping about if we won because at the end of the day, people will wake up Sunday morning and be without a job,” he said. “They (the RFL) think it’s good and it’s good for the neutral I’d imagine – but everyone involved with the two clubs isn’t excited.”