RUGBY LEAGUE: At 30, consistent Cowboys second-rower Gavin Cooper thought his path to Origin football had vanished.
But the proud Murgon product will achieve a lifelong dream in his Origin debut in game three at ANZ Stadium next Wednesday night.
After knocking on the door as an extended squad member this series, Cooper finally got his call-up to Queensland’s 17-man squad at the expense of dynamic back-rower Josh Papalii.
The Raiders star has knee and shoulder ailments, while utility Michael Morgan (knee) was the other omission.
Cooper has struck up a lethal left-side combination with star playmaker Johnathan Thurston at North Queensland and thoroughly deserves his chance in the Origin arena.
“It’s fantastic news for Cooper. It goes to show (the value of) perseverance, sticking to your trade and doing a good job at your trade,” Maroons coach Kevin Walters said.
“He’s been a great player for the Cowboys and we’d like to see him get his opportunity on Wednesday week.
“He was elated. His words were ‘I thought that ship had sailed’.
“Everyone is going to be really excited. I know him and Johnathan Thurston have got a great relationship and Johnny’s over the moon as well.”
Experienced Manly prop Nate Myles was an inclusion after missing his team’s 26-16 triumph in game two with a knee injury.
“Nate’s played 30 Origins. If we thought it was a risk we wouldn’t play him,” Walters said.
“If he says ‘yes’, he’ll be a great inclusion for the Queensland side.
“He’s been such a great player for Queensland and given his experience and expertise at that level I don’t think Nate’s foolish enough to run out there if he’s not fit.
“Later in the week we’ll check on Nate’s fitness.”
While Cooper’s inclusion was a popular one, Papalii’s omission is a big loss for a Queensland side eager to record its first series clean sweep since 2010.
The strong back-rower was a handful for the Blues’ defence in the first two games.
“Josh Papalii was a sad one. The medical staff in Canberra assure us that it will be a couple of weeks before he’ll be ready to play,” Walters said.
“We couldn’t push our boundaries too hard with the club.
“The way he plays is no surprise. He’s had a terrific four or five weeks of football but it’s telling on his body which is a shame, but that’s rugby league sometimes.”
Queensland team for Origin III: Darius Boyd, Gavin Cooper, Cooper Cronk, Dane Gagai, Matt Gillett, Aidan Guerra, Greg Inglis, Jacob Lillyman, Josh McGuire, Nate Myles, Corey Oates, Justin O’Neill, Corey Parker, Matt Scott, Cameron Smith (capt), Johnathan Thurston, Sam Thaiday.