We've got something special here: Cooper
Cowboys back-rower Gavin Cooper says North Queensland now has something special going on that will see players want to move to Townsville to play, adding he's glad the bulk of the premiership-winning team will still be together for next year.
With future immortal Johnathan Thurston at the helm, North Queensland has become a place where players will take less money to stay than they could have earned by going elsewhere – a feature previously the domain of powerhouses like Brisbane, Manly and the Roosters.
"We've got something at the club where people want to come here and play," Cooper told NRL.com after his side's 17-16 golden point win.
"Go back a few years and people were coming to the club – I know 'JT' came to the club to play with Matty Bowen. Now 'Mango' is overseas finishing his career and now people want to come and play alongside JT.
"It's a pretty special group and there's no 'what-ifs' tonight."
Cooper also went out of his way to pay tribute to the club's well-travelled supporter base that flocked down in droves from all over North Queensland to be at ANZ Stadium for the decider, but who also mostly travel more than an hour each way (and more than 10 hours each way in some cases) for home games.
"It's a shame when we have Thursday, Friday and even Monday night games up there because I think it's 30 or 50 per cent of our supporter base drive over an hour to get to our games and that can't happen when we don't play on a Saturday night," Cooper said.
"Saturday nights in Townsville are massive for us, massive for the community and I can't wait to see everyone when we get home tomorrow.
"I'd like to know how many came down from North Queensland [for the Grand Final]. It's been a pretty special week and a pretty special month for this group.
"It's been a pretty special year for the team but this last month we've really gelled, we really stuck together after our loss to Brisbane that first week of the finals. I'm glad the way we've responded. It's going to be a doozy of a celebration."
Cooper tipped more positive times ahead with most of 2015's successful playing group set to reunite over the coming pre-season.
"We've got a special team. I'm glad we're keeping the majority of us together for the next year or so. It's a pretty special group," Cooper said.
He saved particular praise for halfback and captain Thurston.
"He was under the pump the last few minutes, he was looking outside and getting hit, looking inside and getting hit. We've got a pretty special guy in No.6 as well [in Michael Morgan] and 'Morgo' came up with a big play. And I really thought that kick from JT was going over!"
Despite the win Cooper said not too many players would be happy with their individual efforts across 80 minutes as they struggled as a unit for fluency in attack and left it until the last second to draw level.
"I don't think you'll find anyone that was too happy with their game tonight. We gave away a lot of chances and really let them roll through us a little bit there," Cooper said.
"It wasn't one of our best games but it's the result that counts and we've shown time and time again that it ain't over until the fella in the middle blows the whistle."
He added the playing group had spoken about their propensity for remarkable comebacks and while they'd rather not leave things late, the fact they know they are rarely, if ever, out of the contest is a positive.
"It's something that we really keep driving home. We believe in what we're doing, stick to what we're doing and we don't have to go outside of what we're doing to get the job done," Cooper said.
"It was a big play by 'Morgo' [to set up the match-winning try], all night he'd been close to getting through that right edge and he came up trumps when it mattered.
"We had a lot of chances to get back level if not win the game earlier in that half too. But I've got the ring, I don't care!"
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