PAUL Cooke bows out of Leigh Centurions saying he understands the need for change following the club's relegation from Super League.

The assistant coach leaves his position to return to rugby union with Doncaster Knights.

Cooke, 36, joined Leigh midway through the 2016 season after finishing his commitments as skills and backs coach to the Knights where he had been working with director of rugby Clive Griffiths since 2013.

Centurions owner Derek Beaumont said: "I would like to thank Paul for his time at our Club and everything he brought to it.

"He was always very professional and extremely hard working and committed.

"With being relegated and (Head Of Rugby) Kieron (Cunningham) replacing me, along with having committed to contracts for a senior physio and head of performance, we had to make some changes.

"I wish Paul every success in his future."

Cooke said: "I understand the business of professional Rugby League. I'm completely sympathetic to the position of Leigh Centurions and particularly Derek after relegation.

"I feel confident that Derek, Neil, the rest of the staff and everyone at Leigh Centurions will get the club to the position which reflects the passion and vision of the owner.

"I leave the club on good terms, quite frankly that's mine and Derek's way.

"I'd like to thank the supporters of Leigh, they made me feel very welcome from the moment I arrived at the Blackpool Bash.

"I've loved being part of the club, the highs of promotion to the Super League and some wonderful victories. The lows whilst disappointing have also given me the opportunity to learn some lessons.

"I feel fortunate to have been a small part of the Leigh Centurions history and feel very fortunate to once again be joining Clive Griffiths and the Doncaster Knights.

"I look forward to catching up with everyone over in Leigh when I return to watch a game next year in the Championship and the following season back where the club belong in the Super League!”

Paul Cooke played with distinction for Hull FC, Hull Kingston Rovers and Wakefield Trinity, clocking up 280 appearances in the top flight before cutting his coaching teeth as player-coach at Doncaster.

He was chosen as Championship Coach of the Year in 2014 and after leaving the club midway through 2015 finished his playing career with a short stint at Featherstone Rovers.