Former Hull FC & Hull KR star takes on coaching role at Championship club: ‘There’s a real long-term vision here’

Ben Olawumi
Paul Cooke, York badge

Photo: Allan McKenzie/

Super League stalwart Paul Cooke has joined Championship outfit York as their new assistant coach, with previous experience in the dugout in both rugby league and union.

The 42-year-old called time on his playing career at the end of the 2015 season, which he had spent as player-head coach in the second tier with Doncaster.

As he hung up the boots, Cooke ended with 405 career appearances, including three on the international front for England earned in 2006 on a ‘Federations Tour’.

Hull-born, the former half-back played for both FC and KR, scoring 880 points in 220 games for the Black and Whites as well as 222 in 64 appearances across the city for the Robins.

With briefer stints at both Wakefield Trinity and Featherstone Rovers, the experienced head too spent time with Leigh – then Centurions – as their assistant coach between 2016 and 2017.

Both prior to and after that, he’d worked in rugby union with Doncaster Knights, serving them as a ‘Skills and Backs coach’. Now, after a few years out of the game in punditry, he joins York as an assistant to boss Andrew Henderson.

Former Hull FC & Hull KR star Paul Cooke takes up assistant role at York

York confirmed Cooke’s appointment in a press release earlier today, appointing a man who scored a try in the 2005 Challenge Cup final as Hull FC beat Leeds Rhinos and featured at Old Trafford the following year as they lost out to St Helens in the Super League Grand Final.

Linking up with fellow assistant coaches Ged Corcoran and Will Leatt at the LNER Community Stadium, Cooke said: “I’m delighted to have joined the coaching team here at York.

“I’ve been out of the game for a while with family commitments, but when I came to meet Hendo and Clint (Goodchild, chairman), this felt like the right fit for me.

“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, so 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.”

York head coach hails new assistant Cooke: ‘He’s really bought into the vision of the club’

Torquay-born chief Henderson himself has plenty of experience in the game, with the 44-year-old making close to 400 appearances of his own accord during a playing career which saw him pull on a shirt for six different clubs.

He recruits ex-playmaker Cooke with a view to ‘balancing’ out his backroom team at York, with ‘more defined roles’ on the agenda in 2024.

Former Scotland international Henderson added: “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.

“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. I felt like we needed to strengthen our performance staffing operation going into 2024. 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 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.”