Cooke Steps up as Miller Steps Down
Tony Miller is to relinquish his position as head coach of Doncaster Rugby League Club at the end of the current season and will be replaced by Paul Cooke who will also continue his playing role in 2014.
Miller has been involved with the Dons for 23 years as a player, captain, assistant coach (three times) and head coach (twice). The 2012 Championship One coach of the year has decided to call it a day due to his ongoing work commitments.
Chief executive of the Dons, Carl Hall, said: “I was totally shocked when Tony came to my house and told me he was not going to coach next season.
“However, I fully support and respect his decision and I know it wasn’t an easy one to make.
“Since getting my head around it it's been quite emotional as I think the world of Tony and wish him and Debbie all the best for their future.
“He’s been magnificent for the Dons over the last few years and will leave as the club’s most successful coach having won the double last season.
“He’s also a great friend of mine, we’ve gone through a lot together so it’s going to be very hard not having him around next season but I’m sure he’ll come to the games to support the lads.
“I know he will give his best for the remainder of the season and will be pushing the lads all the way to make the forthcoming play-offs.”
Miller started his second stint as head coach after rugby league legend Ellery Hanley left the club at the end of the 2008 season following Doncaster's successful promotion play-off campaign. He was assistant to Hanley that year which also saw the Dons also reach the Northern Rail Cup final.
He has proved himself to be one of the top British coaches outside of Super League after leading Doncaster to their first ever title in eye-pleasing fashion on a shoestring budget last season.
It hasn’t always been plain sailing for Miller during his 23 year stint and has experienced several relegations and bankruptcies and readily admits that the club has always found it hard to compete financially.
Miller said: “It’s been a tough decision to make but I feel now is the right time to leave the club.
“One of the key reasons is that I wouldn't be able to do the job to the best of my abilities.
“Anything I have done, I’ve always tried to give 100% commitment and I wouldn't be able to do this.
“Last year was very special to me and winning the league title for the first time in the Dons history and beating Barrow in the play-offs will live with me forever. I’ve also experienced some massive highs as a player at the club.
“I fully back the club’s decision to appoint Paul and I will give him all the help he needs now and going forward. I believe he will turn out to be a great coach.
“I would like to thank Carl Hall who means the world to me and has done a magnificent job in stabilising the club and driving it forward to where it is today.
“I would also like to thank the players and my coaching team for their support over the years and also the directors and staff at the club.
“Thanks also to the Dons supporters for sticking by the club - I hope to see you at the games next year.”
The head coach role at Doncaster will be Cooke’s first coaching role in professional rugby league. 32 year-old Cooke recently notched his 350th career appearance after spells at Hull FC, Hull KR, Wakefield and more recently at the Dons where he has made 41 appearances since 2012.
Hall added: “I would like to wish Paul all the very best in his new role next season - he has the full backing of the directors, playing and coaching staff at the club.
“He’s got great experience of the game and has all the makings and qualities to be a successful coach.
“Paul has been a great leader for us on the pitch since he joined us last season and he’s also well respected in the game and at the club.
“I’m certain our fans will be very pleased to see that Paul has committed himself to the club for the foreseeable future.”
Cooke, who scored the winning try for Hull FC in the 2005 Challenge Cup final at Cardiff, commented: “I wanted to stay involved in the game after leaving Wakefield in 2010 and a good opportunity arose at Doncaster and one thing has led to another.
“Tony leaves us in good shape and has brought the club a long way since getting beat by an amateur team in the Challenge Cup a few years ago to become the best club and head coach in Championship One last season.
“I’m really looking forward to the new challenge and I will do my best to improve the players not only as individuals but as a group of players.
“I’d like to thank Carl Hall, John Scarrow and Steve Scholes for giving me this exciting opportunity and a thanks also to our fans for bringing me to the club and for their much valued support.
“A massive thanks to Tony and the backroom staff for helping me in my return to the game and I’d like to finish off by congratulating Tony on his success as a coach and wish him and Debbie all the best for the future.”