If I could pick any center in the game, it would be St George/Illawarra’s supertsar center. No, not that injury prone turnstyle who’s Uncle made a name for him 40 years ago, I’m talking about Matthew Cooper.
In a basketcase of a team, a club who’s erratic, stupid play has become a trademark, Matt Cooper is just head and shoulders above his team mates every single week.
He really deserves to be playing at a great club, like the Melbourne Storm for instance, where he would be a key player week in week out in a winning side and he would get the accolades he fully deserves.
To Coopers credit, he was off contract heading into 2009, and despite great offers from opposition clubs, Cooper decided to re-sign with the Dragoins and be a one club player.
In my time watching the game there have been some great centers I have been fortunate enough to see play. The likes of Meninga and Renouf stand out as two players who I would say posessed everything you would want in a center.
I rate Matthew Cooper alongside those two players.
Defensively he is a great player. His athleticism and speed means he wont be beaten in either department. The thing that makes him a great defensive center though is his ability to implement a defensive strategy against an opponent.
He is a stopper, a player you can line up against an oppositions star center and know he will shut them down.
In attack he can beat you with speed, footwork or simply with strength. He is a top class finisher who knows how to get to the tryline.
He is super consistant, and thats saying something considering the team he plays for. He doesn’t go searching for headlines in the papers, he just does his job, and thats something I value a whole lot in this day and age.
If it were up to me he’d be the first center selected in the Australian World Cup.
With Cooper and Inglis on one side of the field, and Hodges and Folau on the other side, Australia would not only have incredible attack out wide, but shut down defense that opposition teams would find a complete nightmare to play against.