Play-Off Memories: Matt Cook
Posted: Sunday 15th September 2019 - 8:00 AM
Tigers forward Matt Cook relives the highs and lows of his play-off experiences as he prepares for another taste this week.
Cas secured a place in the top-five at the end of the regular Betfred Super League season and will now face Warrington Wolves this Thursday in an Elimination Game in the opening match of the 2019 play-offs.
Cook, one of the most experienced members of the squad after recently making his 250th Super League appearance, spoke to castlefordtigers.com about his memories of the end-of-season showdowns when it’s all on the line.
“My first experience of the play-offs was with Bradford in 2006, I think we finished around fourth or fifth in the table so not too dissimilar to now. I think it was Salford and Warrington that we overcame and then we came up against Hull FC away. I remember thinking ‘wow, I’m going to play in a Grand Final’ in what was pretty much my rookie year.
“I was buzzing, really excited and we had a strong team out that day against Hull FC but they ended up scalping us and reach their first Grand Final against St Helens.
“That was heart-breaking to say the least but at that stage in my career, when I was that young, in such a big and dominant team at Bradford, I thought to just dust myself down and not to worry because I expected to be playing in the big semi-finals and finals every year. It actually took me until 2017 to finally play in a Grand Final!
“You can’t take it for granted, you’ve got to leave it all out on the field if you want to get there. To get to another Grand Final for me would be a dream and I want to win it.”
Whilst Cook’s earliest play-off memories weren’t fond ones during his days with the Bulls, the forward was to come up with a much better feeling when representing Hull KR in their first ever play-off match against arch rivals Hull FC in 2010.
Despite being underdogs on the day at the KCOM Stadium, they came away with a 21-4 victory.
“That was a massive game!” adds Cook. “The derby in the play-offs, it was a packed stadium, the atmosphere was electric and we went there and scalped them on their own patch.
“That was a big achievement for the club at the time and I’m pretty sure there will still be a lot of Hull KR fans who still rub it in about that one!
“I think the next round we went away to Wigan and lost. There’s been a few times I’ve been knocked out of the play-offs by Wigan so I’d like to think I owe them one!”
Of course, Cook’s fondest play-off memory, and arguably that of all Tigers fans, was the club’s unforgettable victory over St Helens at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle in 2017. Having taken the competition by storm on their way to the League Leaders’ Shield, Cas were moments away from being knocked out of the play-offs by the Saints until some late Luke Gale heroics as he converted a late penalty and then a drop goal in extra-time.
“It’s been awesome here at Cas. To end up being relegated with London at the end of 2014, that was a real low moment of my career especially with being at the helm as I was that season. To then have the opportunity to come to Cas on the back of their Wembley season, they were building on some success to come here for 2015 and really start to be contesting at the top end of the table again was awesome.
“I think Powelly has helped bring out the best of me in these last five seasons. 2016 ended up being a big catalyst whilst I’ve been here. We’d had a rotten year with injuries and we went into the Super 8s and rattled a few of the big teams. We finished the season on a real high with some momentum, the belief was there and we had a big pre-season going into 2017. Up until the Grand Final we were worlds apart that year but the big challenge since then has been to back it up and maintain it.
“That play-off semi-final against St Helens, I think I had my eyes shut for the last five minutes, I was on the bench by that point not out on the field, and it was an end-to-end game. Both teams had had a couple of drop goal attempts after we’d had a commanding lead and let them back into it.
“You think the game is then done but then Shenny gets taken out off the ball and we get the penalty attempt to level things up. Then for Galey to be cool as a cucumber and get us to our first Grand Final, that feeling was unbelievable, it was electric."
Tickets for this Thursday's Eliminator Game against Warrington Wolves are on general sale to all Tigers supporters at both the Tigers Den in Carlton Lanes and the Tigers Superstore in Xscape Yorkshire along with coach travel to the fixture.
2019 Season Ticket holders receive a £5 discount on production of their season ticket card. Tickets are not available online, for fans who are unable to visit one of our stores please contact Castleford Tigers Ticket Office from Monday morning on 01977 529264.
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