Rovers' olive branch for hothead Cooke

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The Independent Online

The rehabilitation of Paul Cooke could begin today when Hull KR are at home to Harlequins. The gifted but undisciplined stand-off has been left out for the past three weeks after turning up for training in what has been diplomatically described as an unfit state.

The likeliest solution seemed to be a move elsewhere, with Cooke's undoubted talent ensuring that there would be takers, despite his woeful record of off-field misbehaviour. But the return from holiday of the Rovers chairman, Neil Hudgell, and a meeting between him, the coach, Justin Morgan, and the player has papered over the cracks – at least for now.

Cooke has said "Sorry" to the club and their supporters and has been reinstated in the Robins' 19-man squad to face Quins. He is not guaranteed to play, but it is a start in rebuilding his relations with the club he crossed the city to join in acrimonious circumstances 16 months ago.

"I expect Paul to play an important part for us between now and the end of the season and for the rest of his contract," said Morgan.

That clearly depends on him keeping his nose clean and, as Cooke himself has acknowledged, there is no way that he can get up to anything in the city of Hull without everybody quickly knowing about it. In a sense, he will play out the rest of his time there on probation.

The club most interested in providing him with a bolt hole have been Wakefield. Their coach, John Kear, was previously in charge of Cooke at Hull and prides himself on turning around problem players. He would have taken the risk on Cooke but was not prepared to sacrifice the players Rovers would havewanted in exchange.

One of those players, Jamie Rooney, is back in the squad against Castleford today, at the expense of Brad Drew and amid hints that the dressing-room unity at the Wildcats is not quite what it was. Despite their recent form slump, Wakefield will be level with Bradford in sixth place if they win today.

Hull's players have the incentive of Wembley places to play for when they face Huddersfield today. Among those making their way back are Todd Byrne and Motu Tony, but Richard Agar will be cautious about bringing back Richard Horne. The Great Britain back has been cleared to play after a career-threatening neck injury in March, but is a long way from match-fitness.

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