Cooper primed for new Cowboys NRL chapter

Murray Wenzel
Gavin Cooper believes North Queensland are primed for an NRL resurgence in 2020

A year on from Townsville's worst floods on record, North Queensland NRL veteran Gavin Cooper can still feel the nervous tension around town when the rain doesn't seem to be stopping.

Cooper was among those ferrying teammates and civilians to safety in small boats when they were meant to be preparing for last season's opening round.

Things didn't get much better after that, the Cowboys finishing 14th with just nine wins in a season marred by injury, illness and the pre-season sacking of star recruit Ben Barba.

Cooper, who in the midst of that brought up 300 NRL games, was adamant retirement never crossed his mind.

After resisting any urges to take up a contract in Europe, the 34-year-old says his role as the team's elder statesman is more important than ever.

"We don't want to ever be in that position ever again; a lot went wrong off the field but we can control the on-field stuff and where we are now compared to then is very different and the new stadium is another element of excitement," he told AAP.

"I still do have a lot to offer this group and I'll never look at any season like it's my last as long as that's the case."

Cooper sees how Friday's clash with Brisbane at the new Queensland Country Bank Stadium has come at the perfect time for his team and the community.

"A couple of my neighbours still aren't back in their houses, they're still battling," he said.

"Whenever we get a bit of rain and the lakes rise everyone gets a bit nervous but you see how everyone's gone about trying to help each other.

"It's been a big 12 months and this stadium is something for everyone to look forward to."

The Murgon product knows a new home ground doesn't guarantee results but he said improvement in the likes of back-row partner Coen Hess has boosted morale.

"He looks lighter, like he's moving better," Cooper said of the former Queensland State of Origin powerhouse, who's still only 23.

"I'd love to have his speed and power but I'll be doing anything I can do to make him and the other back-rowers better."