Cooper-Gasnier show back on road

Comeback centre Matt Cooper draws Dragons team-mate Jamie Soward during a ball work session at WIN Stadium yesterday. Cooper will reunite with Mark Gasnier for tonight’s clash against Gold Coast. Picture: ORLANDO CHIODOThey were once the biggest double act in the NRL. The dynamic Dragons duo who played 111 games together at club, State of Origin and international level.On the left side of the field was Matt Cooper, with his trademark punishing defence and powerful ball-running.On the right was Mark Gasnier, the untouchable, side-stepping, offloading, attacking weapon.Reunited tonight for the first time since September 13, 2008, Cooper believes the attention surrounding Gasnier’s return to the NRL can help reignite his own season. Full coverage of the Dragons After a spectacular opening to the year which resulted in Cooper securing his 11th NSW jersey, the 31-year-old was struck down by a hamstring injury suffered in Origin II five weeks ago.Cooper said the arrival of Gasnier meant opposition defensive lines were now paying less attention to the powerful left-side trio of Cooper, Brett Morris and Ben Creagh.”I’ve noticed sides have been stacking our left side with an extra member of their defensive line,” he said. “I think with Gaz being back it will drag an extra player over to Gaz. It will make life a bit better for our left side, his presence alone is going to help our left side.”Gasnier, who left for French rugby at the end of 2008, has played 143 games for St George Illawarra. Cooper has 189.Against a desperate Gold Coast line-up without NSW Origin enforcer Greg Bird and Queensland lock Ashley Harrison at Kogarah’s WIN Jubilee Oval tonight, the pair will take the field together for the 99th time in Dragons clobber.They have also combined in seven games for NSW and six for Australia.”It’s been a couple of years since me and Gaz played together, it’s going to be great to run out with him,” Cooper said yesterday.”Things change over time and there’s a lot of new players here who Gaz hasn’t played with. I think it’s going to be good for Gaz to have me out there as a familiar face.”As the Dragons chase a second successive minor premiership, Cooper is desperate to recover his best form after a frustrating period on the sidelines.Cooper limped off at half-time in Origin I with a hip problem, before tearing his hamstring in the final moments of the second game when Queensland secured a remarkable fifth successive crown.”When I got injured, especially in Origin, that was disappointing,” he said. “I’m keen to start fresh on Friday night and put in a good performance for the boys.”Cooper said he expected the left-side attack to return to the form which made them the most feared combination in the NRL earlier this year.”Our form was good when we were all together,” he said.”It’s been great with me being out, so I’ve just got to get out there and play my normal style of football.”Having the likes of Brett (Morris) and the two Bennys (Creagh and Hornby) inside me, it’s made my job a lot easier.”
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