Ma­roons’ quiet achiever

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - JON TUXWORTH jonathon. tuxworth@ news. com. au

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.”

RARE AIR: Valen­tine Holmes cel­e­brates scor­ing one of his three tries in the State of Ori­gin de­cider at Sun­corp Sta­dium on Wed­nes­day night.

Queens­land’s Gavin Cooper.

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