Paul Cooke’s Doncaster ready to hit their straps

Doncaster player-coach Paul Cooke says it is just a matter of time before his side hit top gear.

The 2005 Challenge Cup winner was speaking at the launch of the Kingstone Press Championships in Manchester and said although pre-season hasn’t been perfect, he is confident of his side’s chances going into 2014.

“I think we’re probably a little underdone as a club, as a team,” he said.

“We’ve brought in some new structures and plays and we’re taking a bit of time to get to grips with that but the pressure isn’t on us right now and we’re looking forward to the weekend’s game up at Workington and then we’ll go from there.

“It’s what you get with new clubs and new players, a bedding in period, and although you’d like to hit the ground running, these things do take time and the players are working extremely hard to try grasp these structures and plays and I’m certainly very confident in the group of players we’ve got.

“Yes I think it is [just a matter of time], we finished sixth last year and we’re a similar sort of team and squad, I expect us to hit our straps sooner rather than later.”

Cooke is taking a very selfless approach to his first season as player-coach and claims he will only give himself games if he is contributing to the team.

“It [how many games I play] depends on how the players are travelling and how the club is travelling,” he said.

“If I’m contributing I’ll play but if I’m not and other people are contributing more than me then I won’t pick, it’s not a case of picking yourself for selfish reasons.”

I asked Cooke to explain how the dynamic works when he plays, and whether or not he manages the team while on the field. Interestingly, he said: “I let the coaches and captains on match-day get on with it.

“That’s why they were picked and that’s why they are on the staff so I concentrate on playing, they concentrate on coaching, the captains concentrate on being captains, and obviously I’m just there as a player until we review the game after.

“I just do what I’d normally do and that involves leading the team around the field but the captains are the captains and they say what they need to say, the messages that come on the field from the staff are from the staff and obviously I integrate the two during the week, so from my point of view if I’m playing I’m playing, if I’m coaching I’m coaching and there’s no real grey area.”