Mike Cooper poised for Dragons’ NRL return

St George Illawarra could be boosted by the return of bruising forward Mike Cooper for their NRL match against Manly.

Cooper was a late exclusion from the Dragons’ last-start win over Newcastle because of a back injury, but will return to training on Friday before making a call on his availability to take on the Sea Eagles.

“He hasn’t been on the grass since he hurt his back but we’ll train him tonight and if he gets through we’ll push him again on Sunday,” Dragons coach Paul McGregor said on Friday.

“He’s the judge of that. Backs are an injury (where) a player makes his mind up on whether he’s capable or not. It’s a bit of an unknown with Mike.

“His decision will be from him to us. Obviously he’s an international player so he’s handy to our football team and whoever takes his place will do a great job.”

But the good news for Red V fans has been tempered by a setback to veteran prop Ben Creagh who has been told to further strengthen a troublesome knee that has limited him to just three appearances this season.

McGregor said he felt for the 31-year-old who is just four games shy of passing Ben Hornby as the most-capped player at the joint-venture club.

“And it’s a hard one because he’s a proud clubman and he always puts the club first,” McGregor said.

“We all want to see him back playing rugby league sooner rather than later, but he has got a life to lead after his football career’s finished.

“So the best thing now for Benny is to have that month off running, continue his rehab work, strengthen around his knee and have that final charge for the remainder of the season.”

McGregor refused to rule Creagh out of breaking the record.

“There’s still a lot of footy left in Benny and it’s just whether his knee can continue to play. I know his head and his heart wants to be there. It’s just whether he’s knee can do that.

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