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Cooper's Origin push might be too late

By Steve Jancetic 02/05/2010 04:58:16 PM Comments (0)

St George-Illawarra centre Matt Cooper claims he's playing better footy now than when he was a NSW regular - but admits it may not be enough to earn him an Origin recall.

Cooper continued his late push for a 12th NSW jumper with another superb performance in the Dragons' 38-0 win over Cronulla on Saturday night, the veteran centre registering his second try-scoring double in as many weeks, as he terrorised the Sharks' right-hand defence.

Once a mainstay of the NSW backline alongside former Dragons' teammate Mark Gasnier, the 31-year-old found himself on the outer in 2009, with Blues' selectors opting to use Josh Morris, Michael Jennings and Jamie Lyon, as Queensland powered their way to a fourth straight series win.

Despite admitting to thinking his representative career was over, Cooper said his pre-season performance in the NRL ALL-Stars game had given him a renewed sense of optimism.

"Getting that game in the All-Stars gave me a bit of confidence to realise that I can still play there," Cooper said.

"I feel like I'm playing good football.

"I was there (in the NSW side) for a few years and my form now is probably better than it was a couple of years ago.

"There's some good young players coming through - you've got Josh, you've got Michael and they're playing good football. I don't know how long Josh (fractured eye socket) is going to be out but obviously Jamie Lyon's there as well, (and) Timana Tahu's there.

"There's some good centres for NSW, so it's going to be a hard job for NSW to pick two centres out of five or six."

Helping Cooper's cause is the fact the man on his outside at the Dragons - try-scoring freak Brett Morris - is a certainty to make his Origin debut in game one at ANZ Stadium.

The pair have combined brilliantly in recent weeks, but never better than against the Sharks, when Morris registered his second hat-trick of 2010, as well as coming up with a pair of try-assists to set up Cooper's double.

With backrower Ben Creagh - another member of the Dragons' potent left-hand attack - also likely to be in the Blues' squad, Cooper said the Blues could have a big advantage in sticking with NRL combinations.

"It would obviously help the Blues going into a camp, you've only got a week to prepare for a game and, obviously, we've got a good combination here at the Dragons," Cooper said.

"We've got a good combination with the Dragons, so it's not going to hurt my chances with the Blues - obviously I'd love to be out there.

"(Brett) will be a definite starter, we'll just have to see what happens."

While Cooper is eyeing a representative return, Dragons' coach Wayne Bennett said he felt sorry for centre partner Beau Scott, who was ruled out for 4-6 weeks with a knee injury.

"It's tough for him personally ... he was playing great football and the players value him very much in the team," Bennett said.

"Thankfully it's not season-ending - it's four weeks, five weeks, we can handle that."

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