PA Sport

England forward Mike Cooper to leave NRL and return to Warrington

England forward Mike Cooper to leave NRL and return to Warrington
By PA Sport

09/06/2016 at 16:03Updated 09/06/2016 at 16:06

England forward Mike Cooper is to cut short his stay in the NRL to return to his home-town club Warrington.

England forward Mike Cooper is to cut short his stay in the NRL to return to his home-town club Warrington.

Cooper, 27, who left the Wolves to join St George Illawarra after playing in the 2013 Super League Grand Final against Wigan at Old Trafford, was contracted to the Dragons to the end of 2017 but has been released on compassionate grounds and will rejoin his old club from 2017.

Cooper, who played in all three England matches against New Zealand last autumn, made his debut for the Dragons in the opening round of the 2014 season and has so far made 59 appearances.

"This request came as a surprise to us," said the Dragons' director of rugby league pathways Ian Millward, the former St Helens, Wigan and Castleford coach. "We hoped and planned for Mike to be a part of our club long-term.

"In saying this, we understand and respect his family situation and will honour his request.

"Warrington worked with us to enable Mike to come to the Dragons three seasons ago and we understand why they are keen for him to return.

"Everyone here knows how committed Mike is to finishing this season and his NRL career on a high."

Cooper, who joined Warrington from local junior club Latchford Albion, has signed a three-year deal with the Super League club.

"It was a hard decision to make but both my partner and I have decided that is what is best for our young family is to return home at the end of the year," he said.

"It's not a decision that we have both taken lightly and we both spent a lot of time thinking about what was best moving forward for the three of us.

"We will have been here three seasons come the end of the year and that is a long time to be away from family and friends, especially when you have a young child.

"(Coach) Paul McGregor was a bit shocked and disappointed but I can't credit him enough as he respects the decision and understands the reasons completely.

"He has brought me on in leaps and bounds as a player and I owe a lot to him and his staff."

Warrington head of coaching and rugby Tony Smith said: "It's great news and a great signing for the club.

"It's probably something that we hoped for a few years ago, that Mike would eventually return to our club, but it's probably a little sooner than we thought considering how well he's done.

"It's a real shot in the arm for the club and we really look forward to taking on a player who seems like a veteran here in his early years, at such a young age."

Cooper added: "One of my big aims is still to win Grand Finals with the club I supported as a kid.

"I have played in a lot of big stadiums over here, in front of big crowds but I still miss the buzz of a Friday night at the HJ.

"It is evident speaking to Tony and Simon that work has been put in on and off the field as the club looks to be the professional leading light of Super League, and it's almost there. I see no reason why with the squad in place Warrington can't be up there, in finals."

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