Cooper: Family Matters
By Jack Brady (NRL.com)
Off the back of his memorable match-winning try to seal the Dragons' fifth-straight victory – a 12-10 win over the Broncos – Pommy prop Mike Cooper said the recent birth of his son has proven to be a life-changer.
Having missed the Charity Shield and World Club Challenge due to the birth of his baby boy George, Cooper has gone from strength-to-strength, capping off his recent good form with one of the most important tries in his career which was scored in front of the majority of the Englishman's family who watched on at Jubilee Oval.
Considering the Broncos talent he beat on the way to the tryline – including Australia internationals Matt Gillett and Ben Hunt as well as Andrew McCullough and Kodi Nikorima – and the fact he missed last week due to a hamstring complaint, Cooper certainly won't be forgetting this special four-pointer anytime soon.
"I haven't [scored a try] like that since I was about 16," Cooper told NRL.com.
"We were playing a bit off the cuff at the time, as we do at the Dragons. We like to throw the ball around and I thought I'd straighten us up a little bit and before I knew it I managed to get through.
"It was very enjoyable, a special moment indeed. Considering it was a top-of-the-table game I really enjoyed it because I don't get many [tries]."
Yet while his match-winning play may have been one of the crowing glories of his career thus far, no matter how many times that may happen again rugby league will always take a back seat to his boy and wife Katie.
"It's going great. He's 10 weeks old now and he's changing every day. Family comes first and rugby league comes second now. It makes you realise what you have," Cooper said.
"It makes you want to work harder because everything I do is for him and my partner Katie so that's my sole focus - to look after them two. It's a matter of me looking after them two and providing the best I can for them.
"I have all my family out here [from England] until June pretty much so it's been great to see them out here and to have them here watching."
Meanwhile, Cooper labelled the Dragons as a special place to be currently.
Jumping to the top of the table following their victory over Brisbane, it's a completely different story to the one which plenty expected of the Dragons this season.
Even as far back as the off-season, the Dragons were given no chance to succeed in 2015 – expectations they are exceeding by the truck load at the moment.
"When you're playing for the Dragons the media is on you more than you care it to be, which is a shame really. We were fairly confident in what we're all about and slowly that talk is disappearing," Cooper said.
"It can be a fickle sport sometimes and people wrote us off so it's good to prove people wrong. In saying that, we don't care what anybody else says so we'll continue looking after one another in-house."
While the Red V may be flying high, they aren't getting carried away either.
With one of their typically most challenging games of the year coming up next weekend, their annual Anzac Day clash with the Roosters, Cooper said the focus was strictly on improving and hopefully extending their winning streak to six games.
"We still have a lot of work to do so nobody is getting ahead of themselves," Cooper said.
"It was a really hard win for us [against Brisbane] we didn't play particularly well with the ball, but as we have each week we keep finding something within and that's the main thing.
"It doesn't get much bigger than the Roosters on Anzac Day so we'll definitely keep ourselves grounded moving forward."