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Dragons star Cooper calls it quits

Matt Cooper

An emotional Matt Cooper announced his retirement from the NRL on Tuesday, drawing the curtain on a glittering 13-year career with St George Illawarra.
Dragons star Cooper calls it quits
by AAP

By Ian McCullough

SYDNEY, Aug 20 AAP - An emotional Matt Cooper announced his retirement from the NRL on Tuesday, drawing the curtain on a glittering 13-year career with St George Illawarra.

The former NSW and Australian centre made 243 appearances for the Dragons - the third highest in the club's history behind Ben Hornby (273) and Norm Provan (256).

Flanked by coach Steve Price and chief executive Peter Doust, Cooper fought back tears as he announced the decision in front of key members of the Dragons squad and his wife and two children at St George's Leagues Club.

"It's a tough decision, I've been playing football since I was four ... it's been a long career," Cooper said.

"I wouldn't have wanted to play for any other club but the Dragons, it's the greatest club in the world."

Cooper made his debut in the 2000 season - the team's first as a joint-venture - and formed part of the so-called 'super six' alongside Mark Gasnier, Luke Bailey, Trent Barrett, Shaun Timmins and Jason Ryles.

He was also part of the 2010 grand final-winning side under Wayne Bennett - the highlight of his career.

"The club hadn't won the premiership in 30 years and we'd been close so many times, in 2005, 2006 and 2009," he said.

"To finally win it was a big relief as a lot of people were calling us chokers and to do it for the club and the fans was something special."

A torn pectoral muscle against South Sydney last month means Cooper won't get the chance to leave the game on his own terms.

But having made seven appearances for Australia and 13 for NSW, the 34-year-old said he has no regrets.

"I've had a great career, been able to play with some of the game's best players, worked under some of the best coaches - it's sad but I feel blessed."


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