Get through pre-season first - Cooper

Toyota Cowboys back-rower Gavin Cooper isn’t looking too far ahead with his 2014 NRL season goals.

The 2013 Australian Prime Minister’s XIII representative just wants to get through this pre-season injury-free to be available for selection for new coach Paul Green’s round one squad against the Canberra Raiders at 1300SMILES Stadium on 8 March.

Cooper returned to training with his North Queensland teammates this morning after the Christmas-New Year break, minus the four Australian World Cup representatives who don’t officially start their pre-season until Monday.

There’s only four training weeks to go until the opening trial match against the Brisbane Broncos at Dolphin Oval at Redcliffe.

“I want to get through pre-season first,” Cooper said when asked what his goals were for the new year.

“It’s been very hot and I’ve had a couple of little niggles, but nothing that’s kept me out of any sessions.

“Just to get to the trials and round one injury-free is the first goal and then after that I’ll let my footy take care of that.”

Although it’s unlikely Cooper would be used in the first trial which is traditionally for fringe first graders, he is a contender for a position in North Queensland’s inaugural Auckland Nines squad which has yet to be decided.

The final hit-out of the pre-season will be against the Gold Coast Titans in Toowoomba on 22 February.

“I’d like to be part of the Nines and then hopefully I’ll get to play in that last trial before round one,” the 28-year-old said.

He played more of a senior leadership role in the first half of the Cowboys’ pre-season when the club was without its 13-man World Cup contingent.

Even though most of them have returned, there are still sessions where the representative players are away from the main squad to tackle some catch-up work for their conditioning.