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Ex-Knights boss Mick Cook talks to PETER MARTINI about retirement and his career.
HE might have retired from rugby league, but Mick Cook isn't set to put his feet up.
The former York City Knights coach, who has now officially left Huntington Stadium after "sorting out the last few bits and pieces" this week, will have a bit of spare time on his hands.
But rather than do some gentle gardening, or perhaps take up dominoes, Cook, 46, intends to get into triathlon, the iron man sport where you swim for miles, then bike for miles and finally run for miles, all in one go.
Being in shape has always been in Cook's make-up, though, and even without rugby to spur him on, he's always been fit. In fact, it was that fitness that helped him get into the pro game in the first place, at the ripe old age of 25.
He played as a junior for Hunslet Parkside but when he was first about to join the pro ranks, with Bramley aged about 17, he suffered a bad kidney injury, which forced him out of the game for a few years.
He kept himself fit in the meantime in various sports before falling back into rugby league. "I went to watch a game with my brother and they were short of players, so I started playing again," he recalled.
A couple of years of pub rugby later, he signed for Leeds amateur club Queens, and a year later, in the 1986-87 season, he was snapped up by semi-professional club Sheffield Eagles.
In the decade that followed, he became something of a legend at the Don Valley, winning various Player of the Year awards, including those voted for by his fellow players.
Indeed, he admitted he still holds dear their opinions of him, which came out of a team bonding session that involved players writing down what they thought of each team-mate. He still keeps that piece of paper.
"To me, having that respect of your team-mates is as good as winning trophies and getting paid money for winning games," he said.
"If all the team respect each other, you've got a winning formula as you'll always work hard for each other when it gets tough.
"I think I achieved a fair bit. I had quite a few awards. I was a team player more than anything. I had a good work-rate, made my tackles and didn't make too many mistakes.
"I've really enjoyed my pro career. I wish I had started earlier but that wasn't to be."
As for trophies, he said there were several good times, but none topped his 2005 National League Two title-winning season in his first year as Knights coach.
He had started coaching in 1997 as a development officer at Leeds, and as assistant-coach and conditioner at Bramley, who at the time were the Rhinos' feeder club. He also played for Bramley that season, and once turned out for Leeds' injury-hit Under-21s - at the age of 38.
He soon became head of youth development at Headingley and bossed their academy sides, as well as being on the first-team backroom staff. He came to York in late 2004, severing his links with Leeds 12 months later.
"I had a few successes in my career," he said. "We won Grand Finals when I was at Leeds, I twice won the Division Two Premiership with Sheffield at Old Trafford, I played against Australia when they were over for the World Cup.
"That 2005 season at York, though, takes some beating. The closeness of everyone on the open-top bus, seeing everybody in the town square. It was a bit special."
According to Knights chief executive John Guildford, Cook was virtually a full-time coach at York, despite the role being a part-time one, due to his dedication.
But, a joiner by trade, he decided to retire after his property development business took off; the fact there are only 24 hours in a day meant something had to give.
"It's been up and down," said Cook of his time at York. "We won a title in those three years, which was good. I was disappointed with the format in 2006 when two sides went straight down. It's always disappointing to get relegated - it happened to me as a player as well.
"This year was also very disappointing. We had quite a lot of adversity with injuries, but a lot of teams do. We've had only ourselves to blame, both the team and myself - I will take it on the chin as well. We've not done the business I thought we could have done, but that's life. They can now look forward to next season and move on."
He added: "I've made some good friends at York. John Guildford has become a good mate. He's been the best gaffer I've ever worked for. You know where you stand, he's straight as a die, and he's been very supportive of myself, the coaching staff and the team.
"I'm certainly looking forward to coming back, watching a few games and meeting up with a few people."
Does he think they can rediscover those good times of 2005?
"I think the March brothers are two great signings," he mused. "Paul is inexperienced as a coach but the only way to get experience is to get your hands dirty. Both he and David will add so much to the team with their leadership and by making things happen. I think York are set for a really good year."
He added: "It's been a real challenge and I would like to thank all the people I've worked with, from John Guildford and (chairman) Roger Dixon, to all the staff, even the guys at The Press and Radio York.
"The city I think is crying out for success. They might have to be patient and build the support base. The stronger the club and the finances, the better chance they have."