Warrington Wolves veteran prop forward Mike Cooper made his club debut in 2006, which means he is entering his 16th season as a first-grade player, which includes three years with the NRL’s St George Illawarra Dragons from 2014 to 2016.
Now 32, Cooper made his Wolves debut as a 17-year old, but he is just as motivated now as he was as a teenager and he is as determined and single-minded as he ever was.
“I live my life at 100 per cent,” says Cooper.
“It’s all about getting the best out of myself. Ultimately I’m driven by winning the Grand Final and what it means to this club at this time.”
And Cooper admits he would like to see the Wolves win the Grand Final for the first time both for the playing squad and for the coach Steve Price, who will head home to Australia at the end of the season.
“Steve is a fantastic bloke and a family man,” says Cooper.
“It was a complete and utter surprise when he told us he would leave at the end of the year. We had no info about it before it happened.”
But Cooper understands the motivation that sees Price wanting to return to Australia.
“I’ve been in that situation when you’re on the other side of the world and it’s a drain on your family.
“But Steve has put the club in such a strong position.”
And Cooper rejects the thought that Price’s departure might have affected the way his side is preparing for the new season, while suggesting that the Covid shutdown actually has some unexpected benefits for the players.
“We are going about our normal training in the normal way, so Steve’s announcement has not really affected us too much,” he says.
“But as far as Covid is concerned, with so many outlets being shut down, there are no other temptations or distractions any more.
This pre-season now is just like an army camp, with no other things to do in between, no restaurants and bars to go to.
“I think I played better during Covid than in the normal season.”
Away from the club, Cooper is building several business interests, which makes him acutely conscious of the image Rugby League presents to the world.
“I just want to see some positive press on Rugby League,” he says.
“All we hear about is footballers, but I just want to see the game make the most of what we’ve got.
“And that applies to our own performances.
The Wolves will play their first and only pre-season game this Thursday evening (7.00pm) when they host Leigh Centurions in Chris Hill’s testimonial game.
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