Hull fear starting season without playmaker Cooke

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The Independent Online

Hull will find out today whether they will be without their key playmaker, Paul Cooke, for the first two months of the Super League season. Cooke was taken off after 70 minutes of the club's pre-season friendly at Castleford on Sunday and had a scan yesterday on suspected knee ligament damage. He is regarded as a certain non-starter for Hull's opening game against the Catalans Dragons this Sunday and highly doubtful for a number of games after that as his team try to improve on their second-place finish of last season.

"Sometimes you get these things thrown at you," the Hull coach Peter Sharp said. "It's a big task for me and a big task for the club in the coming weeks." The loss of Cooke would be a particularly severe blow for Sharp, with his regular half-back partner, Richard Horne, also doubtful against the Catalans with a shoulder injury.

Jon Wilkin, of St Helens, will learn today whether he will be suspended for his tackle at Huddersfield on Sunday. The Great Britain second-rower was sin-binned and placed on report for a late, high challenge that left the Giants' Chris Thorman too dazed to play any further part. The Huddersfield coach Jon Sharp criticised the decision of the referee Ashley Klein not to send Wilkin off, as well as claiming that a succession of obstruction penalties against the side in possession had "blighted the game". The Rugby League said yesterday that it had received no complaints about the new interpretation, which has been introduced at the instigation of coaches.

Whitehaven have complained about Wigan sending a reserve-strength side to Cumbria for a pre-season friendly on Sunday. The National League One side believed they had an agreement that Wigan would send a full-strength side as part of the transfer of Oliver Wilkes last season. Whitehaven claim that decision cost them £20,000 in gate takings. The club have also told their former Wigan and Salford forward, Neil Baynes, not to report for training until he has improved his fitness. The prop forward has fought a career-long battle with his weight.

The former Hull coach Arthur Bunting is in intensive care after collapsing at the weekend.

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