Wolves star’s anger on player welfare

Mike Cooper has issued a staunch defence of players in the light of suggestions they may have to play three times a week.

The Warrington forward has been left annoyed by the suggestion players should endure a rigorous schedule once the season resumes, with Cooper believing it will have a long-lasting effect on players if they are forced into it.

“This isn’t 60 years ago,” he said.

“Not even 40 years ago. It’s a high-speed, intense game with serious injuries.

“Look at concussions as an example; when does that come into consideration? If you get knocked out you miss seven days, that would be three games. What we don’t want to do is have players saying they aren’t concussed, or even clubs claiming the player isn’t concussed. But can you say it won’t happen?

“We’re big, tough and daft enough to keep getting whacked in the head. Then later in life, when we can’t put a sentence together and we’re all punch-drunk, is it a welfare issue then?”

He continued: “The reality is that people might have to be playing on a pay cut, but I would ask where is the reward for the risk? For me personally, I want to do my job and it is nobody’s fault this has happened.

“But for players to take a pay cut and then do that to their bodies; speak to players over 60 who are crippled with arthritis, who struggle to walk and struggle to do other basic life tasks. We don’t want to add to that, do we?”

Cooper, a former St George Illawarra forward, believes NRL players would strike if the suggestion was made.

“It wouldn’t happen in the NRL; I’m telling you now that they wouldn’t stand for it.

“They would stand there and say they’re not playing. The Players Association would do that.

“It’s amateurish here compared to the NRL when it comes to the players having a voice. We’re great on medicals and scans, but opinions? We don’t get to have one. Gaz Carvell is trying to get one going, which is great, and I hope it works.”

The England international also believes clubs will need at least a few weeks of pre-season training before being conditioned to return to the field.

“It’s not going to happen, is it? We’re going to be thrown back out there. We need a few weeks at least. It’s not the cardio, it’s the other side, the contact, you don’t just roll out of bed and do it, and it’s not something we can properly train for on our own.

“We have to be really careful. If we fly back out there, there will be some serious injuries and not a great product on the field.”

Cooper also sympathises with players who are set to suffer wage reductions.

“I was speaking to a neighbour and he was asking how it worked for us. We’re still on full pay, but we’re furloughed and we don’t know what will eventually happen with pay cuts.

“But say you have to take a pay cut for six months. You only have ten years to earn a living in this game, so six months is a long time.

“It shows you how fragile the game is. Maybe it’s a wakeup call for us. At Warrington, we’re very fortunate to have two successful backers who look after us. Karl Fitzpatrick does a great job running the club and there are Mike Lomax and Steven Broomhead on the board, who have both been very successful.”