“Come with me, lads - we’ll do together” was this selfless veteran’s lead-by-example mantra in 2017 as the 32-year-old backrower played a key role in orchestrating the NRL fairytale of the year.
Assuming the captain’s reins full-time after Matt Scott (Round 2) and Johnathan Thurston (Round 14) were ruled out long-term with injury, Cooper managed to earn massive buy-in from his teammates as the Cowboys turned on a stunning post-season surge which took them all the way to a third NRL grand final, and their second in three years.
True to his entire career, Cooper was consistently dependable in his eighth season in the blue-yellow-and-grey, the Murgon junior displaying his trademark high work ethic and fitness through a long campaign.
A highlight was scoring a freakish match-winning try in the team’s epic golden-point win over the Raiders in Round 1.
Away from club duties, Cooper played the last two games of the 2017 State of Origin series for his beloved Maroons after debuting in Game III last year. He was one of the Maroons’ best in two ironman performances for the victorious Queensland side.
Average run metres: 86
Off the field: Signed a two-year contract extension this year which will make him a decade-long Cowboy