Barnstorming English prop Mike Cooper only has one wish after his NRL debut – to keep his place in St George Illawarra’s squad. And maybe for the weather to cool down a bit.
Overshadowed by the mesmerising Dragons debut of compatriot Gareth Widdop in the Red V’s rout over the Tigers, former Warrington workhorse Cooper came in for special praise from coach Steve Price.
The 25-year-old was only named on an extended five-man bench for the clash, but won the nod over seasoned back-rower Bronson Harrison, who was relegated to 18th man duties.
Cooper, impressive in a 55-minute stint after Jack de Belin limped off with a severe cork, has no other desire but to keep his spot for the Dragons’ trip across the Tasman to take on the Warriors on Saturday.
‘‘I just want to keep my place in the side and hopefully we can keep winning,’’ Cooper said.
‘‘I’m not putting any pressure on myself. I didn’t put any expectations on myself. I just trained pretty well in the pre-season, but I was really happy to get the nod to play.’’
Cooper only joined the Dragons at the start of pre-season and will return to Warrington after his two-year stint in Australia finishes at the end of 2015.
He’s already played in English Super League and Challenge Cup grand finals, but felt the need to test himself in the rough-and-tumble NRL to further his career.
And it meant there were no nerves before his first touch against the Tigers.
‘‘I managed to play in some big games and some big stadiums back home so to play in a big stadium like [ANZ Stadium] is nothing new,’’ he said.
‘‘There’s a bit of pressure on myself and pressure on the whole team after a big pre-season, [but] it’s more excitement really.
‘‘I was happy to get the first game out of the way. It was pretty hot and it’s not something I’m used to, but I got some good minutes in.
‘‘The whole club, players and staff, have made me feel very welcome. It’s an added bonus there’s an English lad here [Widdop] and we can talk about things back home and the Super League. As a transition it couldn’t have been smoother.’’
The Dragons are likely to learn the fate of injured duo de Belin and Michael Witt today after both failed to finish the clash against the Tigers.
Witt dislocated his shoulder in the second half before it popped back into place. Sam Williams, overlooked for the veteran halfback for round one, could earn a reprieve as early as this week.