Cowboys back Cooper for Test debut
Cowboys co-captain Johnathan Thurston has backed veteran second-rower Gavin Cooper to perform if handed a maiden Test cap when the Kangaroos face New Zealand in Newcastle on May 6.
The talk around Cooper as a Test bolter has centred around the 30-year-old's long-standing combination with the Australia and Queensland Maroons mainstay and their success at club level.
Thurston and Cooper have been one of the more effective two-man punches in the NRL in recent years, which has become Cooper's potential way in despite Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga stating his desire to field an experienced side for the upcoming Test match.
"He is playing great footy for us and he's been really consistent for us this year," Thurston said after his Cowboys beat Parramatta 32-16 on Saturday.
"There are a lot of the [North Queensland] boys that are putting their hand up, so fingers crossed we can get the boys there.
"[Cooper] has been one of our most consistent over a number of years now and his form this year has been great for us, and he's obviously really solid on the left edge. We have a really good combination in attack and obviously in defence, so he wouldn't look out of place in the green and gold jersey, that's for sure."
After a slower start to the season where his combination with Thurston was yielding very little, Cooper has crossed for a try in each of the past four games – three of which he has been the game's first try-scorer.
The 197-centimetre back-rower does not just run the right lines and defend stoutly, his length makes him a dangerous aerial threat.
Fourth in decoy runs and seventh in support runs (the only forward in the top 10) in 2015, Cooper works just as hard as anyone in the NRL, and his efforts do not go unnoticed.
Lock forward Jason Taumalolo, who in previous years laid claim to the left edge back-rower spot, has joined Thurston in giving Cooper the tick of approval.
"If 'Coops' does get the call up, he obviously deserves it," Taumalolo said.
"He has been playing great football for the last few seasons at the Cowboys and since we have had him back [from the dislocated hip in 2014]. I think he deserves a call-up for Origin or Australia."