WEDNESDAY night’s State of Origin game for Queensland rookie Gavin Cooper can’t be any crazier than the past 48 hours for the Cowboys forward.
He joined teammates in camp on the Gold Coast 24 hours after the birth of his son, Reggie Cooper, in Townsville.
Cooper organised relatives to look after his two-year-old daughter before flying to Brisbane to join Kevin Walters and the Queensland team in camp at Sanctuary Cove.
He has also been contacted by his older brother, Dustin, who is trying to make a rushed trip out from the United States to be in the crowd for his Origin debut at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium.
“It’s been a whirlwind 48 hours with the birth of my boy on Tuesday,” Cooper said.
“It was a bit tough leaving the hospital to come here because I have another two-year-old to look after, which the family are helping out with.”
Cooper combining with Maroons five-eighth Johnathan Thurston is a real bonus for Queensland with the pair having forged a lethal try-scoring partnership with the Cowboys.
Like retiring forward Corey Parker, Cooper is a player teammates enjoy because of the hard work he does off the ball, although at 30 he could have been forgiven for thinking Origin had passed him by.
Cooper will become the oldest Queensland debutant since 31-year-old Danny Nutley played one game in 2005.
“It just goes to show if they think you’re the right man for the job it really doesn’t matter age and bringing in a new crop of young players,” he said.
“This team has proven time and time again it (age) is just a number. The experience that these guys have got with a lot of players over 30 Origins; JT has played 36 in a row, Smithy (Cameron Smith) has the game’s record, GI (Greg Inglis) is about to play his 30th and Nate (Myles) is there as well and that’s why he’ll be given every opportunity to get his knee right.
“Just the bond and culture that has been built up here over a long time. I’ve only experienced it a couple of times now, but you feel it straight away and it’s something I am grateful to be part of and will never forget.”
Cooper said his brother, who played a handful of NRL games, was trying to organise flights from the US to be in the crowd at Wednesday night’s game.
“I spoke to him on the way down here from the airport in Brissie,” he said.
“He’s got a young family as well so he’s just trying to juggle things as well. If he is able to make it I will really look forward to seeing him.
“He played a bit of NRL. It was him that got me back into footy when I moved to Redcliffe.
“Like any little brother would say about their big brother, he’s someone you look up to, whether it’s on the footy field or off the footy field.”
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.