FIT-AGAIN CASTLEFORD Tigers forward Matt Cook reckons the ingredients are in place for a successful season after a “heartbreaking” end to 2018.
The 32-year-old featured only 20 times last year, an arm injury ending his season shortly after he had made his 250th career appearance.
He made his comeback, starting at prop, in last Sunday’s 56-0 win over Featherstone Rovers and is feeling positive about what the next 10 months will bring.
“It was good, it was nice to blow off the cobwebs,” he said.
“It has been a long time for me, probably over six months since I tore my biceps towards the back end of the regular season last year.
“It was nice to get out there and get some good minutes under my belt.
“The arm is fine, great - I’ve just got to get the match fitness going again.”
A run of games is Cook’s main hope for 2019.
He said: “Fingers crossed I can get through the season injury-free and really contribute to the season ahead and hopefully we can go on and do something and achieve something this year.
“Last year was very frustrating, especially the timing of the injury. Sometimes if you get an injury like that in the early stages of the season you are ready for the back end.
“To get it literally the round before the Super 8s started was heartbreaking.
“I really pushed hard all the way through my rehab and almost made it back in time for the semi-final, but it just wasn’t right and it would have been too big a risk to play that game.
“I was gutted for the lads to not win that game and not get to the final, but hopefully we can set some things right this year.”
Looking at the bigger picture, Cook felt the game five days ago was good for Tigers’ long-term future.
He was one of half a dozen first-choice players on show, with the rest of the team being made up of fringe squad members and academy prospects.
“They got better when I went off,” he joked.
“I know it was tough for Fev as well, patching a team together at the last minute, but they turned up well.
“They had a few of their more experienced players missing, but a lot of them were quite a lot older I reckon and our really young boys did a good job.
“For large patches of the game there wasn’t a lot of experience out there, our first-teamers were off and all our young lads stepped up.
“They were really good and our young lads in the middle were phenomenal and the outside-backs’ finishing was brilliant.”
Cook was particularly impressed with academy hooker Brad Jinks.
“They need to sign him on full-time now,” he advised.
“He is an Oldham lad so he can travel over with me!
“He is a tough kid, hard as nails. He got some good game time.
“It wasn’t worth risking Paul McShane and sadly Jacques O’Neill got injured early on in pre-season so he didn’t feature, which was frustrating for him, but hopefully his rehab’ will go well and he’ll be back in the fold soon.
“It was a good opportunity for Jinksy to get out there and show what he’s worth.”