Even stony-faced North Queensland coach Paul Green felt sorry for Gavin Cooper after the Cowboys backrower again missed out on a long awaited representative debut.
After years on the Queensland State of Origin fringe, Cooper looked set to finally earn his stripes when the Kangaroos squad for next week’s trans-Tasman Test was unveiled on Tuesday.
However, it proved yet another heartbreaker for an overlooked Cooper – and it seems the usually poker-faced Green.
Asked if he was surprised Cooper didn’t even earn an extended bench nod for Australia, Green said: “I feel sorry for Coops every year around rep time.
“His name always gets mentioned and it happened again this year but unfortunately he didn’t make the team.”
Cooper appeared poised to join the elite group of footballers to have played Tests before Origin after Kangaroos playmaker Johnathan Thurston campaigned for the mobile backrower.
Cooper’s combination with Thurston on North Queensland’s left edge looked set to work in the backrower’s favour at the Test selection table.
However, Canberra’s Josh Papalii snapped up a contentious starting backrow spot ahead of Cooper.
The Cowboys forward was also overlooked on an extended bench, with second-rower Aidan Guerra from dead-last Sydney Roosters surprisingly named as 18th man.
Green hoped Cooper was not too discouraged by the latest setback ahead of Saturday night’s NRL clash against Manly at Brookvale Oval.
“He’s a terrific bloke and one of our leaders here,” Green said.
“I don’t have to talk about how good a player he is.
“He wouldn’t let anyone down.
“Hopefully he keeps doing the right thing.
“I am sure he will get an opportunity at some stage.”