Maroons’ quiet achiever
HE’S Queensland’s unsung hero, the invisible man of the Maroons left edge who doesn’t get the plaudits he deserves.
Cowboys forward Gavin Cooper’s Origin career could have been over as soon as it began had Queensland not been hammered in Game One this year.
Now it’s difficult to imagine a Maroons team without the reliable 31- year- old.
Like a referee having a good day, Cooper barely gets noticed until you glance at his stats sheet after games.
In Wednesday’s Origin decider he finished with 37 tackles, missing just one, and made 98 metres from 14 runs.
He was also the defensive rock which helped galvanise a new- look left edge in Michael Morgan and Valentine Holmes who took most of the limelight for scoring and setting up tries.
Cooper made his Origin debut in Game Three last year and was overlooked for the series opener this season.
Had the 28- 4 thrashing in Game One not happened, his Origin career may have taken a different course.
“Kevvie ( Walters, Queensland coach) rang me the night before the ( Game One) team was announced and told me where I stood,” Cooper said.
“I didn’t think I was going to get a start by making sweeping changes like I did, I thought it would be through injury.
“I didn’t wish harm on anyone but when I saw Kevvie in Darwin ( after a Cowboys game in round 14), he told me I was in the ( Game Two) team, and I was over the moon.”
The Maroons were written off after being dominated by the Blues for most of the first two games, which Cooper said gave Queensland a siege mentality.
“No one really gave us much of a chance besides Queenslanders,” Cooper said.
“I know all the experts didn’t give us a chance and it was always going to go south of the border.
“To the boys’ credit and everyone in the team, we played 26 players this series and it’s pretty unprecedented to have that many changes. They ( Blues) played the same 17 every game.”
The left edge was rock solid despite Morgan playing his first top level game at centre, while Storm five- eighth Cameron Munster was making his debut.
But Cooper said the process was far from glitch free as they prepared for the makeshift combination to be tested by the Blues.
“To tell the truth we struggled the first couple of days at training, but we did some extra work and I think it showed tonight,” Cooper said.
“The only time they broke us down was off a kick.
“He ( Holmes) is a finisher, he finds ways and his third one was pretty special.”
Walters’ decision to play Morgan at centre and Munster at five- eighth was emphatically proven to be the right calls as the Storm youngster put together one of the best Origin debuts ever.
“Morgan’s a footy player, you could stick him at 13, one, two or three and he’ll do a really good job for you,” Walters said. “Tonight, his first opportunity ( to set up Holmes’ first try) was outstanding. Defensively he was up against a big body in Josh Dugan but he handled him well.
“It was quite freakish what Val came up with, it was like he was down at the beach playing beach footy.”