He has been a part of the St George Illawarra Dragons for a long time, his name is iconic in rugby league circles and in Dragons circles and he has always been a fan favourite, but for Matt Cooper, the journey is over.
The veteran centre has today announced his retirement from rugby league aged 34 and is the third highest capped Dragon of all-time behind Ben Hornby and Norm Provan.
A local Shellharbour Sharks junior, Cooper’s final game of the year was in Rd 19 against the South Sydney Rabbitohs, where he damaged his pectoral muscle.
Despite that, Cooper says that to be given an opportunity to make his first-grade debut some years back now, was a dream come true for him.
“It was obviously a dream come true for me to debut in 2000,” said Cooper.
“Ever since I was little, I wanted to play first-grade football and it’s a memory that I’ll never forget.”
Known not only for his ability to create something out of nothing but also for his defence, it was the defensive side of things that Cooper said was something he always enjoyed doing.
“Always from a young age, I loved defending,” said Cooper.
“That was probably one of my special traits as a kid and then when I played in first-grade, I knew that if I defended well, I’d keep my spot.”
“I worked really hard on that and it’s something to be proud of for me as an achievement, hard work and dedication.”
Cooper has achieved just about everything there is to achieve in the game, having won a Premiership in 2010, a World Club Challenge in 2011 and has represented both NSW and Australia.
“I’ve got a lot of highlights, but obviously one that sticks out is the 2010 grand final win,” said Cooper.
“For me, as a player, I’d been at the club for a long time and we’d fallen short on a few occasions and just to get to the grand final was something special.”
“Obviously to win it, was a dream come true.”
“It had been a long time for the club since we won a grand final and to win it, was a great feeling.”
Cooper, who will retire as a one-club player is revered among all figures in rugby league and with his departure, Dragons CEO Peter Doust wished the veteran all the best and thanked him Viagra for his years of contribution to the club as a player.
â€œMatt Cooper is a special individual and brand that has always represented the Dragons with distinction,â€ said Doust.
â€œHe has been a significant role model and in particular, a vivid example of our local junior development programs and an inspiration for rugby league players in our region.
â€œMattâ€™s professional approach to his training, playing and recovery has been outstanding and enabled him to play at the highest level for such a long period of time, he is the epitome of the modern day rugby league player and we thank him for his contributions to our Club.â€
One thing that Cooper was always known for, even he if he was not captain in many games, was his leadership skills and ability. Able to motivate the young players and lead from the front, is an aspect Dragons coach Steve Price chose to focus on and remember.
â€œMatt will be sorely missed as he has played an important part and contributed significantly over the years to this proud Football Club,â€ said Price.
â€œHe has been a great leader both on and off the field over the past 14-season at the Club and a positive role model for all the younger players at the Club.
â€œOn behalf of the entire playing group I thank him for his efforts and for all the contributions that he has made to individuals, the team and the club in general, we wish him and his family all the best for the next stage of their lives.â€
Whilst he is still undecided on his future and what he would like to do now that he is retired, Cooper said he has a few options up his sleeve.
â€œI would love to remain involved in rugby league in some capacity at some stage but I am not sure exactly where and how at this stage,â€ said Cooper.
“At the moment, I am preparing to launch my new â€œDragons Fitâ€ training centre located in Wollongong,â€.
â€œI have always had an interest in fashion through my clothing shop â€œMoose and Iâ€ and I am preparing to launch my â€œDragons Fitâ€ training centre, both located in Wollongong.
â€œThe thing I will enjoy more is the opportunity to be able to spend some more time with my family, my wife Dallas and my two girls Indy and Starr who are growing up fast.â€