North Queensland Toyota Cowboys life member Gavin Cooper will finish his playing career with the club at the end of the 2020 season.
Cooper has appeared in 321 NRL games over the course of a glittering 15-year career, including 245 in Cowboys colours.
The Murgon Mustangs junior debuted for the Cowboys in 2006 before departing the club for the Gold Coast Titans in 2007. In 2009 he again moved south to the Penrith Panthers before returning to North Queensland prior to the 2011 season.
Cooper quickly established himself as North Queensland’s first choice second rower on his return to the club and was a driving force behind the Cowboys’ seven consecutive finals appearances between 2011 and 2017.
The 35-year-old captained the Cowboys to the club’s first piece of silverware - the 2014 NRL Nines title.
He appeared in 27 games during North Queensland’s maiden premiership campaign in 2015, including a sensational two-try performance in the 32-12 preliminary final victory over the Melbourne Storm and the historic 17-16 grand final triumph over the Broncos.
In the absence of the injured Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott, Cooper captained the Cowboys during the fairytale run to the 2017 grand final.
Cooper will make his 246th appearance for the Cowboys against Penrith on Friday night, which will see him tie Scott Bolton for the fourth most in club history, trailing only Johnathan Thurston, Matt Bowen and Matt Scott. His 72 tries are the most by any Cowboys forward and the eighth most in club history.
Cooper also made six State of Origin appearances for Queensland and was a member of the 2017 NRL All Stars side.
“I’ve enjoyed a lot of success here at the Cowboys and I had the chance to leave a couple of times, but I always felt a strong connection to the club and community and North Queensland was where I wanted to raise my young family,” Cooper said.
“The 2015 grand final is the memory which sticks out for obvious reasons, but there were a number of other periods during my time at the club I look back on really fondly.
“The run through to the 2017 grand final and to see some of the young kids we had in our squad that year grow up really quickly was very special. My 300th game down in Gosford when Jake Clifford stepped up and kicked a field goal for us to win against the Roosters and all the golden point games against the Broncos are other memories which stick out.
“There’s a long list of people I’d like to thank for their contributions to my career, but I don’t want to single anyone out right now, that is something I would like to do in person down the track.
“I would like to thank the Cowboys as well as all the club’s members, fans and partners for their support during my time at the club. I’ve enjoyed every second of my time as a Cowboy.
“I’ve got two more opportunities to wear Cowboys colours and I’m going to give it my all like I always have with that jersey on and hopefully finish on a high.”
Cowboys Director of Football Peter Parr described Cooper as one of the most influential players in club history.
“He’s one of the great contributors this club has ever had. To play the amount of games he has and the amount of time he has spent on the field is significant for me – he’s a guy that has played 80 minutes almost every game of his career, which I think has been understated,” Parr said.
“His on-field record speaks for itself, but what I think of when I reflect on Gavin Cooper’s career at the Cowboys is what he did away from the paddock. How consistent he was with his training and preparation and his care for his teammates and the club.
“There hasn’t been a player who has cared more for this club or been more selfless for this club than Gavin Cooper. He did whatever he could to make this club successful both on and off the field and for that reason all of us who have been privileged enough to have had something to do with his career, we will look back on it as one of the great Cowboys careers.”