Cooper hoping to sway Gasnier to stay - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Cooper hoping to sway Gasnier to stay

By David Beniuk 14/05/2008 07:26:38 PM Comments (0)

Matt Cooper hopes his decision to recommit to St George-Illawarra will sway his NSW centre partner Mark Gasnier to reject French rugby and stay with the NRL club.

Cooper on Tuesday re-signed with the Dragons for another three years while Gasnier has revealed he has received interest from the 15-man game and has a loophole in his five-year deal with the joint-venture club.

Dragons and rugby league supporters breathed a collective sigh of relief two years ago when the famous Gasnier name appeared safe in rugby league's keeping.

Asked if he hoped his decision to stay and play under incoming supercoach Wayne Bennett would help sway Gasnier, Cooper said: "I hope it does.

"Gaz is a big part of the Dragons club. He's our captain, he's obviously a great player and he's got a great name, so all the boys would love for him to stay.

"He's a great mate of mine and obviously I would love it if he stays."

Cooper says he's willing to be Gasnier's sounding board as the Test centre ponders the mysterious "situation" presented to him from France.

"If Gaz wants to talk to me about it, I'm all ears," Cooper told AAP.

Gasnier said on the weekend he was hoping to avoid another media frenzy about his intentions.

He hasn't got his wish, but Cooper said the speculation would not distract Gasnier as he enters this year's State of Origin series.

"No way. There's always been something going on with Gaz and he handles himself really well," Cooper said.

"He's always up for the challenge. No matter what's going on off the field he'll always put in a good performance on the field."

Meanwhile Cooper, NSW's most experienced back with eight Origin appearances, said he wasn't expecting to be baited by opposite number and renowned niggler Justin Hodges at ANZ Stadium next Wednesday.

"Me and Justin always sort of have a good hit-out," Cooper said.

"He's a tough competitor, I seem to think I'm a tough competitor too.

"Years ago when we first started playing there was always a few verbals but now we've played against each other a few times that's sort of gone out the window."

Cooper is aware his selection for the Blues is largely a mission to stop Hodges.

"That could have been the reason (I was picked) and if that is the reason then that's what I'm going to have to do on Wednesday night," he said.

"I sort of pride my game on my defence, it's something I've worked hard on over many years now.

"People can call me a defensive centre, that's fine by me, I'm happy to be a defensive centre.

"(Hodges) is a great centre, he's been in great form the last couple of years so it's going to be a pretty hectic night for me trying to contain him and if that's what I'm in the team for then that's what I'll be trying to do."

The Nine Network reported on Wednesday night Gasnier was considering the move to rugby because he was $350,000 out of pocket due to unpaid sponsorships.

The report said St George Illawarra were being investigated over the Gasnier deal by NRL salary cap auditor Ian Schubert, a claim Dragons chief executive Peter Doust dismissed.

"I don't want to make any comment about the contractual and/or sponsorship arrangements regarding Mark Gasnier at this point in time other than to say they've got nothing to do with the St George Illawarra Dragons," Doust told AAP.

"There's no issues as far as salary cap as far as the St George Illawarra Dragons are concerned and therefore I don't know of any investigation."

An NRL spokesman said discussions had taken place with the Dragons to understand the situation, but no cap investigation was underway.

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