Gavin Cooper knows the Queensland jersey he’ll wear on his State of Origin debut belongs to his brother as much as to him.
Cooper’s dream of a rugby league career appeared over as a teenager when his older brother Dustin – an ex-Melbourne, Newcastle and Cronulla player – convinced him to come to training at Queensland Cup team Redcliffe.
Cooper never looked back, earning NRL stints at North Queensland, Gold Coast and Penrith before returning to the Cowboys in 2011.
Since then Cooper has found a home, started a family and won a premiership.
Now, at 30, he’ll earn a Maroons debut that seemed the last thing possible over a decade ago.
“It was him that got me back into footy when I moved to Redcliffe,” Cooper said.
“Not that I’d fully hung up the boots. I wasn’t playing footy or doing much on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons when he was training.
“He approached the colts coach and got me to come along and have a run.”
The brothers spoke briefly as Cooper was making his flight down to Brisbane on Thursday to link up with the Queensland camp.
Dustin is living in the United States as he continues a rugby league career that has taken him to Japan, France and now Boston since he left the NRL in 2008.
Cooper said he’s hopeful his older brother will be among the family who make it to ANZ Stadium to cheer him on as he tries to help Queensland secure a series clean sweep.
“Like any little brother would say about their big brother, he’s someone you look up to whether it’s on the footy field or off the footy field,” Cooper said.
“He’s been here, there and everywhere playing all different sports so he’s lived the life but I know he is envious of what I do and that I get to play NRL every week.
“If he is able to make it I will really look forward to seeing him.”