Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Sunday's Coming: Doncaster

Cookie Confusion: One of these chaps teaches
Rugby *nion backs to run and pass.
Rugby League coaches can be a taciturn bunch. Finding quotes and opinions can be like finding a needle in Giant Haystacks sometimes  - but Doncaster coach Paul Cooke is surprisingly voluble and gives great interview. At first we were a little concerned because a message on their website asked if we wanted to 'Accept Cookies'. 'Cookie's what?' we wondered...

Having trailed by just 22-14 at half time the Dons tanked by 50-20 at Leigh last week.  Speaking on Cooke was philosophical: “We rode our luck at times with last ditch efforts in defence, but they are a good side, they are not where they are by accident and, whilst it is disappointing to concede as many points as we have, we probably have more winnable battles over the next few weeks.”

He described shipping a half century against a Leigh team that's stuggled to overcome Hornets in two games so far this year as: "… (not) a defining moment in our top eight aim for the season.”  However, Cooke also said: “It’s tough to take, when you concede 50 points, it is not acceptable." No biggie? Or a biggie? Or Biggie Smalls?

Biggie or not, Donny sit fourth with seven wins and a couple of bonus points, demonstrating the level you have to aspire to, to be competing at the right end of the Championship.

"We move on to a really tough game next week against Rochdale who are ever improving and winning some games…" said Cooke. "…  we ran out of steam in the second half (at Leigh) and conceded some poor tries. We will review it but we have to move on quickly, we have a really big fixture at home to Rochdale."

The loss of Dons' influential second rower Lee Waterman to injury at Leigh will likely be offset by the inclusion of newly signed ex-Super League utility forward Steve Snitch who racked up over 200 appearances for Wakefield, Castleford and Huddersfield - including the 2006 Challenge Cup Final. Of late he's been playing at Intrust Super Cup Premiers Northern Pride (That's the 'Queensland Cup' in old money).

Also back in Cooke's side are Cooke Mike Kelly and Shaun Leaf (you may recall that Leaf was banned for 18 months in 2011 after placing a £200 bet on the opposition in a Challenge Cup fourth-round game between Doncaster and Wakefield. He was also  found guilty by a Rugby Football League tribunal of  betting against his team in a Championship One match against Toulouse in 2009 and of gambling on other games in 2011).

But whatever side he puts out on Sunday, we all know that Cooke is the key (Cookies the key? Accept Cookies?). His pinpoint distribution and crafty kicking game can punish unwary sides and he's our man-to-watch this week.

Having become something of an enigma on Humberside (Cooke played over 200 times for Hull FC before crossing the river to Hull KR), he has lived an equally interesting double life at the Keepmoat as Head coach of the Dons - and Skills & Backs Coach for  *nion plodders Doncaster Knights under Head Coach Clive Griffiths. Yes - THAT Clive Griffiths, who clearly doesn't mind 'dual-registering' himself and his backs coach from an altogether superior sport.

And Finally… On Sunday, Doncaster are offering a programme and parking for a special price of just £5 The offer gives you parking on the Keepmoat Stadium car park along with the matchday programme. Regular matchday parking on the Stadium is £4 per car.

RFL Match Preview
Doncaster’s Lee Waterman is facing three months on the sidelines with a dislocated shoulder, forcing coach Paul Cooke into a reshuffle ahead of Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash with Rochdale Hornets.
Cooke said: “A lot of the teams that have been promoted this year are now finding their feet in the Championship.
“It takes time – 12 months ago we were bottom of the league – but Rochdale are in some good form.
“We’re not taking this as a given, absolutely not. We need to make improvements on our last three games, although last week we did take some strides forward from the previous two.”
Dave Llewellyn is a major doubt for Rochdale after his ankle reacted badly to last week’s match against Halifax.
Gareth Langley and Danny Davies are also set to miss out, but Alex Trumper should return for the Hornets.
Coach Ian Talbot said: “I don’t read too much into Doncaster’s loss last week – they were away at Leigh, who’ve been doing that to everybody.
“We know Doncaster are a quality team, and when you’ve got experienced players like Paul Cooke you’re always going to ask questions.”