YORK Knights have appointed former Doncaster head coach Paul Cooke as the club’s new assistant coach.

The ex-England international will link up with head coach Andrew Henderson, Ireland boss Ged Corcoran and Will Leatt in a four-man coaching staff for 2024, as the club looks to build upon back-to-back Betfred Championship Play-off finishes.

Cooke enjoyed a decorated playing career in the Betfred Super League, turning out for rivals Hull FC and Hull KR.

His try proved vital in the 2005 Betfred Challenge Cup Final as the Black and Whites secured a dramatic 25-24 victory over Leeds Rhinos at the Millennium Stadium, before he featured in the 2006 Grand Final at Old Trafford – the club’s first and only appearance at the historic stadium.

The 42-year-old earned three caps for England, going onto score 70 tries, 545 goals, nine drop-goals and 1,379 points across 405 professional appearances during spells at Hull KR, Wakefield Trinity, Doncaster and Featherstone Rovers during his professional career.

He then moved into coaching at the Eco-Power Stadium, serving as a player/head coach from 2014- 2015 before moving into an assistant coach role at Leigh Leopards from 2016-2017.

The Hull-born half-back has also worked in rugby union with Doncaster Knights as a Skills and Backs coach across two spells from 2013-16 and 2017-19.

Having taken a step back from the game to focus on his family commitments, Cooke is delighted to have made the move back into rugby at the Knights.

“I've been out of the game for a while with family commitments, but when I came to meet Hendo and Clint, this felt like the right fit for me,” he enthused.

"I was looking for an opportunity that was unique to bring me back into coaching and there's a real long-term vision here at York and I'm delighted to be part of that.

"I'm coming in alongside Ged and Will, who have both been great with me. There's a real trust among the staff, which is really important in any coaching set-up.

"Hopefully I can play a small part in what is a massive cog where hopefully York can get better."

Head coach Henderson believes that Cooke’s experience will add real value to his coaching staff, saying: "I'm really pleased to secure the services of Paul and I'm really pleased that Paul wanted to come here too. 

“I know he's been touted for a few jobs in recent years but, from when we met, nothing really excited him.

"But after meeting with myself and Clint, he's really bought into the vision of the club and the journey we're going on and feels like he can add some value to our coaching team.”

Henderson believes that it has been important to strengthen off the field as well as on it as the Knights look to improve upon last term’s sixth-place finish.

"I felt like we needed to strengthen our performance staffing operation going into 2024,” he explained. “Each year we go forward, we need to see progression and improvement.

"I thought that adding another assistant coach would help strengthen us and then it was a case of looking at who was out there and who is of the right quality and standard to help develop our players further and take them to the next level. Paul Cooke came to mind pretty quickly.

"Having met him and spoken about how we both approach the game, we're very similar and aligned, so it's a great addition for us to have a quality coach to help our players develop further.

"As a head coach, you have a lot to contend with on a day-to-day basis. The more quality support staff you have around you, the better. I was really grateful to Clint for backing me in that regard.

"I think we've got a good balance now to our coaching staff. I've got an ex-half-back in Paul Cooke and an ex-front-rower in Ged Corcoran, who will have more defined roles, with each taking a particular unit and myself overseeing all the operations.

"Plus we've got Will Leatt, who is a developing young coach and will be supporting both Paul, Ged and myself and looking after another unit of players."