Cooper vows to keep Gillett in check
Cowboys back-rower Gavin Cooper has vowed not to have his "pants pulled down" for a second time by Broncos opposite Matt Gillett as the Maroons pair prepare to face off in one of many intriguing head-to-head battles on Friday night.
Fresh from inking a new four-year deal to remain at the Broncos until the end of the 2020 season, Prozone stats obtained by NRL.com show just how significant Gillett in the three most recent one-point thrillers against the Cowboys.
The 28-year-old is second to only Anthony Milford for tackle breaks (14) in the trilogy of thrillers to go with three line breaks and the two tries he scored in the 19-18 loss in Townsville in Round 11.
While Cooper's partnership with Johnathan Thurston on the Cowboys' left edge is renowned throughout the Telstra Premiership, Gillett and Brisbane half Ben Hunt have an equally threatening combination on the Broncos' right side.
Teammates in the PM's XIII in 2013 and also for Queensland in Game Three of this year's Origin Series, Cooper said that in recent years Gillett has become very much a go-to man for Brisbane, who suffered losses to the Panthers and Roosters in his absence late in the season.
"He's a competitor. He runs hard, he tackles hard, he's got some late footwork and he actually pulled my pants down the last time we played them," Cooper told NRL.com.
"He scored two tries on our edge so hopefully we'll be doing a bit better job on him this time.
"He's been a rep player for a long while now and deservedly so. He brings a lot of energy to their team and he's a go-to when they need something special like a big hit or a little bit of an offload. He's a very handy player."
Earning his second Test cap for the Kangaroos earlier this season and with 15 Origins for Queensland over the past five years, Gillett has stamped himself as one of the game's premier forwards.
His double against the Cowboys in Round 11 was his second against North Queensland in his 151-game career to date but he insists any tries he scores come as a result of the players he has around him.
"It isn't really a deliberate ploy to get me the ball close to the line," said Gillett. "I have to credit Ben Hunt because the two tries were created by him.
"He's the half and he saw what was in front of him and I was the beneficiary. I was lucky enough to get two short balls off him that got me across the line.
"We need to win it in the forwards and that's the same for every game we play. There's no better test than the Cowboys' pack at their home ground."
With Gillett running hard lines back on the angle Cooper concedes the overall shape that Brisbane play on their right side make them a hard team to defend.
Six of the nine tries that Brisbane have scored against North Queensland in their past three games have come on the right side of the field, putting plenty of pressure on the likes of Cooper and Thurston on that edge.
"He understands the game of footy and him and Ben Hunt have played a lot of footy together now so it's a handful," Cooper said.
"There are a couple of those little package deals that are pretty tough to handle and if you put [Anthony] Milford in there and then you've got Darius Boyd around the back there's a lot of stuff to read before you make a decision.
"With someone as classy as 'Gillo' at the front, you can never discredit the line he's running.
"Both sides know how each other plays but it will come down to individuals on the weekend and making sure that everyone is on their game. Making your tackles and doing that stuff and then the team will flow from that."
First published on NRL.com.