Cooper wary of depleted Warriors
While a trip across the ditch is usually considered a nightmare for travelling teams, taking on the Warriors away from home is what the St George-Illawarra Dragons dream of.
The Dragons have won an astonishing 19 from 23 matches against the Warriors and are currently on an 11-game winning streak dating back to 2007 against their Trans-Tasman rivals.
Despite the incredible record, Dragons lock Jack de Belin couldn't put his finger on why the Red V had enjoyed such prolonged success against their Kiwi counterparts.
"Maybe it's just the way our teams are stylistically matched up. I know every time we've played them we've had some good victories. I don't know what you can put it down to. Maybe it's just a determined effort from the all the boys," de Belin said.
"With the Warriors I think everyone knows the way to beating them is completing high, getting through your sets, getting to a kick and just ramping up in 'D'.
"If you keep turning the ball over and giving it to them, they're just too big, too fast, too strong, so you've got to take the ball away from them as much as you can."
The task of ending the streak has been made even more difficult for the hosts with six of their top players dropped from the first-grade squad after failing to meet team standards.
De Belin acknowledged the omission of the star sextet – namely Ben Matulino and Manu Vatuvei - would make his side's job much easier on Sunday afternoon.
"I don't really know what the go behind it is or the reasoning behind why they’ve dropped certain players," the ever-improving lock told reporters at Sydney airport.
"They're some fantastic players. Those two especially are leaders of their side so for them not being in the team will definitely benefit us and be a disadvantage to them."
Fellow Dragon Mike Cooper saw the axing of half-a-dozen Warriors differently, predicting it could in fact galvanise the rest of their squad.
"I think they'll be dangerous. After a poor performance last week I'm certainly expecting at the start of the game for it to be a tough, fiery encounter and one that we're looking forward to," Cooper said.
"These are the games you've got to be careful because they have senior players missing. We certainly don't want to take them lightly.
"We've got a good record against the Warriors so we're going over there full of confidence, but it's a game that's a must win for them. They've been kicked after their performance last week. The coach has come out and made a few changes, young players are stepping in and I'm sure they'll be fired up."
Cooper said his team couldn't rest on its laurels against a Warriors side that will have a point to prove following their 42-0 shutout at the hands of the Melbourne Storm on Anzac Day.
"Certainly while I've been here they've not been able to beat us. I'm not sure why [that is]," the Englishman said.
"Last time we played them in the pre-season trial match we beat them fairly comfortably. I'm sure it'll be a different side for them this week after the performance last week and I'm sure the coach will have them fired up."
The Dragons could receive a massive boost with star halfback – and New Zealand native - Benji Marshall flying out with the team on Friday.
The 31-year-old has been troubled by a hamstring complaint for most of the season that has limited him to just three appearances in 2016, but Cooper said he would be given every chance to line-up this weekend.
"He's a quality player with a lot of experience. We'll see how he goes tomorrow at training and if he pulls up fine from training then I'm sure he'll play. He's a huge bonus for us."
Joining Marshall on the plane to Auckland was dummy-half Mitch Rein whose fitness is similarly up in the air after being forced from the field against the Roosters during the tense 20-18 win last Monday.
Cooper said that the No.9 would be assessed on Saturday and wouldn't be risked if he wasn't fully fit.
"I think we'll have to see how he goes tomorrow. He left the field with an AC injury in his shoulder. Obviously it's a pretty important position with him passing the ball so if he doesn't feel comfortable then he won't play."