Cooper praises Storm skip­per

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

IS Cameron Smith ( great­est of all time)?

His Queens­land team­mate Gavin Cooper be­lieves the Mel­bourne Storm hooker is build­ing a com­pelling case be­fore North Queens­land hosts the pre­mier­ship favourites on Fri­day night.

Twice in Ma­roons camp this year the Cow­boys stand- in cap­tain has had the priv­i­lege of watch­ing Storm stars Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater pull a ri­val team apart up close.

It’s why he knows the Cow­boys will have to lift sig­nif­i­cantly af­ter their flaws were ex­posed by the Roost­ers in the se­cond half of last week’s 22- 16 loss.

“It’s ex­actly what I ex­pected and to get a chance to play with them in that Ori­gin team was an eye opener to see how they train and game plan,” Cooper said.

“They’re very pro­fes­sional in what they do and it shows on the field. Smithy is now at 350 games, he’s one of the best, if not the best that’s ever played I think and to try and stop him com­pletely, I think you’re kid­ding your­self.

“You’ve got to slow him down and limit his op­por­tu­ni­ties across the park.”

De­fence will be a ma­jor fo­cus for the Cow­boys this week af­ter they failed to han­dle the Roost­ers in the se­cond half.

“For one half of footy we were pretty clin­i­cal with the ball but in the se­cond half we didn’t get too much of a chance to do much with it,” Cooper said.

“We showed in the first half we could match it with a team at the top the GOAT of the lad­der but in the se­cond half when they re­ally rolled their sleeves up, we couldn’t go with them.

“They ( Mel­bourne) have got some trick plays that have pulled some very good de­fen­sive teams apart and if we con­sider our­selves one of those good de­fen­sive teams, we’ve got to be on.

“The level of footy they’re play­ing is a good level above every­one else so it will be a mas­sive test.”

The Storm will be with­out fiveeighth Cameron Mun­ster who has failed to prove his fit­ness af­ter hurt­ing his an­kle in Sun­day’s 40- 6 win over Manly.

The Cow­boys are fifth and only out­side the top four on for and against, but could fin­ish the round just two points ahead of ninth if they can’t up­set the Storm.

“They’ve been pretty blessed for a long time where they’ve had a very sta­ble 1- 6- 7- 9 ( com­bi­na­tion),” Cooper said.

“Even when Bill ( Slater) was out for a long pe­riod of time they had a sta­ble No. 1 there. Not tak­ing any­thing against the for­wards, they’ve got some in­ter­na­tional for­wards and some guys who just do their role, and do it very well.”

Cow­boys star Gavin Cooper.

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