Cooper out of trip to Auckland

Star Cowboys second-rower Gavin Cooper has been ruled out of this week's Warriors clash after suffering a fractured eye socket during last Thursday's loss to South Sydney.

 

The edge forward's omission is just a precaution and Green has confirmed that the 29-year-old will be right to suit up next week against the Storm at AAMI Park.

"It's not too bad and it's not displaced so if we weren't flying this week he'd probably be right to play given the longer turnaround," Green said.

"Just the fact that we have to fly to New Zealand, the doctors weren't too keen on letting him fly."

Cooper will be replaced in the starting side by John Asiata who has been one of the more consistent Cowboys for the bulk of the season.

The multifaceted 22-year-old has been a revelation for North Queensland in the second half of the year with his ball-playing ability in the middle of the field a key link between the right and left flanks.

Asiata will be pushed to his limits in filling the shoes of an 80-minute player – a good opportunity for the interchange forward to test his wares in a higher-responsibility role – but Green said the decision on how long Asiata stays on the field will be made during the game.

"We'll see how the game pans out, but again it's a reward for Johnny. He got a taste at the start of the year and slowly but surely he's worked his way into a more significant role in the team," he said.

Asiata's elevation means his interchange spot will be filled by boom under-20s talent Coen Hess, who will make his NRL debut.

The promising back-rower turned 19 last week and is one of just two Cowboys (the other being Michael Morgan) to have contracts until 2018.

He has experienced a meteoric rise this year, making all the right moves for the second-placed Cowboys in the Holden Cup and dipping his toe in the water for the Mackay Cutters in the Intrust Super Cup for a couple of games which included a headline-grabbing performance in a win over Redcliffe with two tries and a try assist.

The 190-centimetre, 110 kilogram junior Kangaroo is known for his aggression and dedication to his craft, which is evident in his official player bio – with his favourite player listed as Ashton Sims (for his enthusiasm) and training/fitness tip reading "success isn't owned, it's leased, and rent is due every day".

"'Hessy' deserves his [NRL debut] and he's probably answered every question that we've thrown at him this year. It's exciting for him," Green said.

"That's one of the rewarding parts of the job that I do – when you give a young guy an opportunity.

"He played a bit of Q Cup and that's about learning how to play against men. He was certainly up to that, he didn't get overawed. Each time he's had to go up a level he's handled that step up, whether it be physically – playing against men – or whether he's played rep footy this year, he's certainly been a standout in our under-20s.

"That's a good sign when players can handle that step up in class, whether it be physically or a step up in the level that they play. I have full confidence that he will do the same this week."

Video first featured on cowboys.com.au