Survivor Cooper knows there's much more to life than footy

Mike Cooper takes part in a coaching clinic at WIN Stadium. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN
Mike Cooper takes part in a coaching clinic at WIN Stadium. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN


Eighteen years old and emerging from eight days in intensive care after complications during surgery on a broken leg, Mike Cooper knew he had to plan for life after sport.

He had even been administered the last rites while mother Pauline, an intensive care nurse, had been told his prospects of survival were grim.

It was only a month after he made his English Super League debut with boyhood club Warrington and his rugby league career seemed over before it had even started.

He had broken a tibia and fibula as he buckled under a tackle in an under-18s match but he couldn't have foreseen he would be awoken more than a week later with a cast of nurses staring at him.

Cooper was found during surgery to have a blood clot that had travelled to his lungs as he contracted pneumonia.

"I was even given the last rites and the doctor told my mother it wasn't looking good," the Dragons prop said.

"The club were providing updates while I was in intensive care.

"I was actually lucky I was in surgery for the broken leg when it happened because they immediately switched all the equipment and started working on the clot. If it wasn't for that then I probably wouldn't be here.

"I spent about eight days in there and when I came out I said, 'if I'm going to play, I need to do something outside rugby'."

From that he developed his own online sports store.

The store, 1895 Sports, leant heavily on Cooper's contacts at it began by supplying rugby league apparel to amateur rugby league clubs. It quickly grew to include replica English Super League and NRL supporter gear, and a running spin-off called Run Geek.

There is now a walk-in store in Warrington.

"It's hard at first as there are a lot of long days involving training then working until 8 o'clock or 9 o'clock at night, but once we got going it kind of took the pressure off a little bit and it's given me something to fall back on once I finish playing," Cooper said.

"Based in Warrington with the rugby side of things, we had players coming in and out all the time and that drew people in.

"They come in for a coffee or a chat and some nosey people come in wanting to see what's going on."

Cooper's involvement in the business, by his own admission, quietened since he packed up to try his hand with the Dragons.

He's kept working with business partners Sam Wareing and Stuart Hull, despite the difficulties with time differences.

He's convinced more full-time professional players should follow his lead.

"It's something when I get back [to England] I'll pick up the reins again," he said.

The 25-year-old prop will miss an English grudge clash with the Burgess boys on Monday as he rests a persistent neck injury.


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