Cooper coming to grips with a brutal preseason

RUGBY LEAGUE

Mike Cooper said he's visited some "dark places" in his first NRL preseason, but only needed to briefly catch up with some ex-Warrington teammates to know he's made the right decision.

Only months after he helped the Wolves to the Super League grand final, St George Illawarra's other English recruit was reacquainted with some old friends yesterday.

Warrington headed south during an Australian preseason camp to escape the freezing English winter, training with the Dragons in steamy conditions at WIN Stadium.

"They couldn't believe how nice the beaches are down here in Wollongong," Cooper said. "They love it and they said I was pretty lucky to be out here.

"The opportunity here is huge for me and I'm prepared to make the most of it. The lifestyle here is a lot different and a lot more relaxed.

"It certainly puts a smile on your face when you wake up and there is sunshine in the morning."

The 25-year-old admitted the chance to test himself in the NRL was irresistible after other English players had blazed a a trail for him.

He joined the Dragons on a two-year contract and will return to Warrington at the end of the 2015 season.

There was never going to be any escaping a gruelling preseason held in stifling heat, a far cry from his frozen home in northern England.

It was predictably the Dragons' annual pre-Christmas boot camp which exposed "some demons".

"It was probably the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," Cooper said.

"Everyone said [preseason] was tough and people dread coming back in for it but I never really got the full gist of how hard it was going to be until it started.

"We're coming to the back-end of it now and there's a few trials coming up in a few weeks, so there's a bit of light at the end of the tunnel."

Cooper had toured Australia with Warrington, which featured a clash against NRL heavyweights South Sydney last year.

"It was obviously really good for the club and it was a good test for us at the time.

"I think it was an opportunity for the coaching staff as well to have a look at some of the younger players and how they react in camp," he said.

"As nice it is ... three weeks being away from the family can be tough."

Cooper can be called upon by coach Steve Price to fill different spots in the pack when required.

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