Cooper recalls call that made his career - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Cooper recalls call that made his career

Wayne Heming 13/03/2011 02:20:54 PM Comments (0)

It was the telephone call that changed Matt Cooper's life and career.

After eight seasons with St George Illawarra, Cooper was ready to follow so many players in the later stages of their careers to the Super League in Europe.

That was until he took a telephone call and a familiar gravel voice said: "Hello Matt, it's Wayne Bennett. I want you to stay."

Two minor premierships, an NRL title -- the club's first in 31 years -- and a world club championship later, Cooper says Bennett's call changed his life.

"How do you say no when Wayne Bennett calls you and says he wants to you to stay?" says Cooper.

The Dragons centre related the story of the phone call from the club's celebrated new coach after marking his 200th NRL game with a 25-16 opening round win over the Gold Coast at Skilled Park on Saturday night.

"Two years ago I was heading overseas," said Cooper.

"It was only that Wayne called and said he wanted to keep me at the club that I didn't go.

"I'd already made my mind up I was going before Wayne got the job.

"He changed my mind and it was probably the greatest decision of my career."

Cooper said he felt blessed to have won a premiership last year.

"Wayne, the staff and the players, we all made it happen (2010) and hopefully we can do it again this season." he said.

Bennett revealed he'd received some conflicting opinions about Cooper when he arrived at the club as coach.

"I got mixed messages about Matt when I came to the Dragons, about his attitude and things but in the three years I've been there I can't fault him, he's been outstanding," said Bennett.

"Matt's a real pro, a good guy to be around, a fun guy, who has a lot of respect within the team and who is best left alone in his own environment.

"I thought his (World Club Challenge) game against Wigan was as good a centre's game as I've seen him play in real long time."

Bennett hoped the salary cap could be relaxed to allow Cooper, who will soon negotiate his final contract, to fittingly end his career at the Dragons where it started.

"I think the fans want that, I know that's what he would want and if there is some leniency in the cap, that would help the club enormously to keep him," said Bennett.

Cooper is hoping that happens.

The last thing he wants is to play against his club.

"It would be sad if I had to go somewhere else for one or two years knowing I've played my whole career at this club," he said.

"Hopefully we can sort something out. It would be great if there was an exemption there for long serving players so I wouldn't have to leave because of the salary cap.".

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