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Veteran back-rower Gavin Cooper’s undoubted highlight in 2016 was being able to – once and for all –put to bed one of rugby league’s great modern-day speculations: Would the hard-working Murgon product ever crack the Origin arena?

Cooper-as-an-Origin-bolter stories have been doing the rounds for the best part of a decade and this year the 31-year-old Cowboy was able to rule a line underneath those musings with his Maroons debut in Game III, the wily forward scoring a try on debut.

At club level, Cooper – in his seventh season as a Cowboy and 11th in the NRL – led from the front, playing in all but one club match, churning out consistent high-level performances as the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys went within one game of consecutive grand final appearances. 

2016 STATS

Played: 26
Tries: 9
Runs: 305
Run metres: 2,489 (96m per match)
Average tackles: 31 
Tackle breaks: 41
Line breaks: 9
Offloads: 9