BEING paired against Wigan Warriors in this year’s Challenge Cup quarter finals brings back great memories for Warrington Wolves prop forward Mike Cooper.
He is one of only two current Wire players, with the other one being Ben Westwood, to have been a part of the team that sparked the club’s glorious run in the competition with defeat of Wigan in the semi final at Widnes in 2009.
Three wins at Wembley in four years followed, the greatest sequence in the club’s history.
And Cooper, as a 20-year-old in his hometown team, helped make it happen as a try scorer in the 39-26 victory on a highly emotional afternoon at the Select Security Stadium.
“The try was from my first touch after coming on as a sub,” said Cooper, “It was one of the most memorable games I’ve ever played in, with the noise of the Warrington fans at Widnes.
“The ground was bouncing as we were running out for the game.
“That’s what sticks in my mind and one of the reasons why I came back here was because I want to get that feeling back again.
“We’ve had a little taste of it this year (with the win against Brisbane Broncos) but the cup tie against Wigan is a game where we can get a packed house and get the place rocking.
“It’ll be a brilliant game and hopefully plenty of support will hopefully help to make it a game to remember for all the right reasons for us.”
But that is not until Saturday, June 17, kick off 3pm, and next up is another huge occasion against Wigan in the Magic Weekend clash at St James’ Park in Newcastle.
The 28-year-old former Latchford Albion junior is relishing his 145th game in primrose and blue, his first at Newcastle.
He will head north with the team tomorrow, Friday, before returning on Sunday morning to start preparations for the following weekend’s double-header - Leeds away on the Friday, Salford at home on the Monday.
“It makes a nice change for the lads to get away. I’ve never played at Newcastle so I’m looking forward to it,” said Cooper, whose last Magic Weekend experience was a 48-22 defeat of St Helens at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester in 2013.
“It’ll suit us playing in a big stadium in front of a big crowd with the players we’ve got.
“We’re lucky in that we’ve played in some big finals in big stadiums but there are some lads who haven’t played in a big stadium like St James’ Park before.
“It will be valuable experience for them, because in some ways it is like a final with all the build-up to it.
“It’s about momentum this game. After a little dip at Hull we’re two wins from two and want to make it three from three. Let’s make it a weekend to enjoy.”
Cooper goes into Saturday’s clash “pretty much” injury free and hoping to maintain that.
“I’m happy with my form at the minute,” said Cooper, who spent the past three seasons plying his trade in the NRL with St George Illawarra Dragons.
“It was a bit of a slow start through injuries. I played the first six with a bust hand, which was difficult, but I’m over that now and healed up.
“I’m looking to kick on with my form and play as best as I can for this club and hopefully be in the finals.”