Cowboys veteran Gavin Cooper believes he can still play a vital role for Queensland, revealing why he has not given up hope of continuing his Origin career.
On Monday the Maroons will name the team to take on NSW in game one of the Holden State of Origin series at Suncorp Stadium on June 5.
With forward Matt Gillett (18 games for Queensland) back on the park for the Broncos after missing last year’s series and Storm forward Felise Kaufusi in strong club form, Cooper is in a battle to retain his position in the squad.
The 33-year-old’s contribution in six Origin games for Queensland is highly valued by coach Kevin Walters. He is one of the most popular members of the Maroons squad and a genuine leader.
Cooper told NRL.com he had been in regular contact with Walters throughout the year.
"I am hoping. I still think I can do a great job for Queensland so we’ll wait and see," Cooper told NRL.com.
"I spoke to Kev last week. He gave me a call to see how we were going and asked a couple of questions about a couple of things. I haven’t heard anything since but I have been a part of that team for a couple of years. Kev knows, and everyone knows, what I do for a team when I am part of it."
The 2015 premiership-winner, who has played 294 NRL games and been at the Cowboys since 2011, is off contract at the end of the year but said he was not viewing the rest of the season as a farewell tour.
"I don’t see it like that at all. I haven’t heard that people are trying to push me out so it is definitely no swansong for me,” he said.
"Yes I am only on contract for this year but it is a long year. If we’d had a bit of a better start to the year things might have progressed, but at the moment it is head down, bum up and trying to get some wins up for the Cowboys. We’ll sort that [contract] stuff out at a later date.
"We’ve had a big turnover of players the last two years and lost a lot of experience but to see some of the young guys come in and be a part of the club, and to be a part of this changeover group, is something I am really enjoying.
"I’m loving my role and there is no talk of me stopping just yet. No-one has patted me on the back and tried to push me out the door."
Cooper forged a potent combination on the left edge with Johnathan Thurston over many seasons at the Cowboys but this year has had a variety of left-side halves to play alongside.
Five-eighth John Asiata is there now and doing a good job for North Queensland but Cooper does miss his sixth-sense liaison with Thurston.
"My combos have changed a couple of times this year so it has been a little bit challenging there but obviously we were never going to replace a player of [Thurston’s] stature and ability," he said.
"Just learning to play with other people is why I am enjoying it as well. It is all a learning curve and I sometimes fall back into some old habits. With Johnno I wouldn’t have to say anything. I might just do something differently and Johnno would see that and I’d end up with the ball.
"It is still a work in progress with the guys I’ve got around me but it is all fun."
The Cowboys, on eight competition points, sit just two points outside the top eight but need to build momentum after a gritty 17-10 win over the Eels, starting with the away trip to Canberra on Saturday.
"Against the Eels they had the bounce of the ball a couple of times but the boys’ desperation in defence was there," Cooper said.
"We’ll need that again as we chase winning two games on the trot for the first time this year. Canberra gave it to Souths on the weekend and just came up short so it is going to be a very tough afternoon."