FORMER Super League star and Hull KR cult hero Ben Cockayne is set to finish his career with York City Knights after agreeing to join the League One promotion hopefuls next year.

The 33-year-old full-back or winger will bring more than 300 games' worth of experience to Bootham Crescent, much of which has been in the top tier, upon his release from Rovers at the end of the current season.

Knights boss James Ford - gearing up for Sunday's key home clash with Doncaster in the race for the play-offs - has hailed the recruitment, saying Cockayne will have a "really important" job on and off the field, no matter which division they are in.

"I'm delighted that the club is in a position to sign a player of Ben's calibre and I'm really looking forward to working with him next year," Ford told The Press.

"He will have a really important role to play at the club, not just with his performances but in facilitating the development of some of the exciting young talent we have here."

Asked if former Wakefield Trinity full-back Cockayne could usurp local favourite Ash Robson from the number one shirt, Robson having made that position his own prior to his current suspension, Ford said: "Ben can play wing, full-back and do a good job in the centres. That's to be decided.

"Ultimately he's a very good player across the back line and an outstanding competitor. That tenacity is a quality I admire in rugby league players."

The signing has been aided by the fans' Squad Builder Fund. Said Ford: "I think the supporters have been outstanding this year, not least Squad Builder, whose support for the club has been fantastic.

"We would not be in a position to bring in a player of Ben's calibre without the fans' support as a whole.

"We've got the second best home attendances in the league (behind Toronto Wolfpack), and ours is higher than a number of teams in the Championship.

"That shows what an effort the supporters have made this year and shows again the potential of the club.

"We've talked a number of times about the potential at York and tapping into it. To have travelled the distance we have in such a small amount of time (since the December takeover) is outstanding and I'm excited about the further progress we can make."

Cockayne has suffered off-field controversies in previous years - non-rugby issues ultimately saw him end his first spell at Hull KR by mutual consent - but, with those experiences behind him and his role as a coach with amateurs Normanton, Ford believes he has a player who can now be a real leader.

“Ben will be key in the development of some of our outstanding young players," he said.

"I think it's an exciting time to be a York supporter watching this squad take shape."

Cockayne, having joined the Army aged 17, was a relatively late starter in the pro rugby ranks, making his debut for Hunslet in 2004 aged 21, before establishing himself at Doncaster the following season.

He moved to Hull KR in 2006 for the first of two spells at Craven Park, where he has become a terrace hero while chalking up more than 200 appearances in all. He was named man of the match when Rovers won the National League One Grand Final to win promotion back to Super League in his debut season.

Cockayne played nine games for Featherstone in 2011 after his first release from Hull KR, helping the Flat Cappers to Championship League Leaders and Grand Final success, before quickly returning to the top flight and enjoying a 56-match stint at Wakefield between 2012 and 2013.

He then re-joined Hull KR and, after enduring relegation through the Million Pound Game last year, he is now hoping to help the Robins bounce straight back up via the Middle 8s.

Asked if the veteran still had plenty of rugby left in him, Ford said: "Absolutely 100 per cent - he won't be happy to be called a veteran either.

"If you know Ben, you know it's in his nature. He's an outstanding competitor, he looks after himself to a fantastic level and he will have a really positive influence on everyone at the club."

Cockayne said: “I’m really looking forward to it at York. Jon Flatman (Knights chairman) is a good guy and he really sold the club well to me.

“I may be heading towards the end of my career but I still feel I have plenty to offer on the pitch, as well as helping the younger lads in the team in any way I can.

“Hopefully I can finish my time at Hull KR by winning promotion back to Super League, then I’ll look forward to getting stuck into pre-season at York all guns blazing.”