He is one of the unsung heroes of the Cowboys finals charge himself, but Dallas Johnson wanted to focus on one player in particular – and that was his back-row partner Gavin Cooper, who is enjoying a stellar 2012 season.
Johnson believes that Cooper is a big reason as to why the club is the position that they are, heading into the do-or-die semi-final clash with the Manly Sea Eagles.
“Coops has had a tremendous year … he works his arse off every week and he runs a terrific line off Johnno (Johnathan Thurston),” Johnson said.
“He does a lot of that shit work that people don’t notice either.
“I do a fair bit of that work too, which is pretty important, but he’s normally out wide there and he could avoid a lot of that type of work if he wanted.
“But he always gets in there and makes our jobs a little easier.”
Despite the praise from his team-mate, however, Cooper was as modest as they come, saying that other players besides himself are performing – with the Murgon local producing 34 tackles a game, 12 runs a game and averaging over 100m a game this season.
“Everyone’s doing their job, everyone knows their role in the team and we’ve been doing that,” a modest Cooper said.
“The big boys go up the middle with Jimmy (Tamou) and Thumper (Matt Scott), and then we’ve got Ashton (Sims) and Scotty Bolton on the bench.
“And even Chicko (James Segeyaro) coming on for Payney … everyone sticks to their role and that’s why we’re getting the job done.”
Despite the possibility that both star centres will be out for Manly, Cooper knows that the Brookvale outfit are still a talented side.
“Obviously it’s finals time footy – they’re not going to put in debutants,” he said.
“They’re going to know how to play finals footy.”
The game will have a sense of deja vu for the Cowboys players, after Manly steamrolled the club 42-8 in the first week of the finals in 2011 – but Johnson says that 2012 is a new year, with that game in the team’s past.
“Last year we kind of limped into the finals and we didn’t have a real good run, so we’re in a lot better stead this year,” he said.
“But that doesn’t mean too much going into this game – we’re a bit healthier, but we still need to perform out there on the day.
“You’ve got to have 17 players playing to the best of their abilities, just getting into that arm-wrestle and slowly grinding them down.”