By Rachael Price

St George Illawarra Dragons prop Mike Cooper is keen to test his mettle during the NRL Auckland Nines tournament at Eden Park, Auckland this weekend.

The Latchford Albion junior is looking forward to the opportunity to get out on the field before the beginning of the season and see how far he has come in his own individual development.

The 26-year-old will not be playing his former club, the Warrington Wolves, when the Red V take them on in March due to the imminent birth of his first child in Australia.

“Fortunately for me I’m pretty used to training in warm weather now, it took over a month to adapt when I first got here; I’m used to training in the cooler weather and we’ve had a few cold days lately,” said Cooper.

“I’m looking forward to playing in the Nines this year, I didn’t get the opportunity last year but I’ve heard that it’s a really good atmosphere over there and the fans really get into it.

“We’re not too sure of our strategy just yet, but we’ve all got a job to do; we’ll need to draw in defenders to leave them short and get a good play the ball.

“Although it’s a speedy game there are still a few big players out there that we need to handle and it’s not all going to be throwing the ball around, there needs to be structure to it.

“My first child is due to be born in March, and it’s too close for comfort; it’s not just a quick trip home if my partner goes into labour and I’m in England playing my former club.

“I’m not going to risk missing the birth of my first child so I’ll be training and playing in trial games while that England trip is happening.

“We’re due to have a little boy and he’s going to be born in Australia which is a first for the family, we’re really excited; we have a lot of family and friends coming to Australia as soon as he’s born.

“The result of the Charity Shield match last year was disappointing so we want to redeem ourselves; I feel we are stronger last year so hopefully we’ll go out there and put in a decent performance.

“It’ll be used to finalized the things we’ve been working on in preseason and the trials and put it all into practice.

“We’ll still have a few weeks after the Charity Shield before we start playing but it’s good to get a feel for the game before we get to the real thing.

“Everyone is trying to make a place for themselves in the team; we have a lot more depth than the last couple of years so it’s good for us.

“Hopefully we can go out there and get the job done, but I’m very confident we will.”