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City lock Cooper Bai: 'My goal is to dominate the middle'

Rugby league is in Queensland Under 17 City lock Cooper Bai’s blood.

His dad Marcus Bai was the first player from Papua New Guinea to pull on the Melbourne Storm jersey; he played 144 games for the club, scoring 70 tries over six seasons. His brother Aston Bai plays Hastings Deering Colts for Burleigh Bears.

“Rugby league started for me when I was born really, with dad, he told us about it and engrained it into us,” Cooper said.

Aston Bai: 'It would mean everything to be able to give back'

“Since under 6s I’ve been playing at Burleigh Bears and loved it since then. Have worked my way up at Bears.”

This year, Cooper, part of the Gold Coast Titans’ junior development program Future Titans, played lock in the Bears’ Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup side and his skills did not go unnoticed.

Cooper said he was stoked to be picked in the City side to play on Saturday.

“Feels amazing to be named with all the other boys… it's a really good feeling and then going up against the Country boys will be good because I know a couple of them too,” Cooper said.

“It will be really good.”

Cooper, who likes Victor Radley’s aggression and Cameron Murray’s ball-playing skills and ability to play eyes-up footy, said his aim was to play his role the best he could to give the City side the best chance possible to come away with the win.

“In lock forward, I like maintaining the hard running of the ball, but also having that pass, being a connection player with the halves and being able to spread the ball,” Cooper said.

“Especially in the middle… just maintain dominance in the middle.

“Saturday, my goal is to dominate the middle and make it easier for the other boys, especially on the edges… just help the team out as much as I can, putting in maximum effort.”

Cooper, cognisant his selection in the City side is the first step towards higher representative honours, said he would love to play for the Queensland Maroons in the future.

“Ever since a kid just watching Origin on TV, all my family together… just aspiring to be on the TV in front of all those people and just inspiring the next generation,” Cooper said, adding current Maroons prop Tino Fa'asuamaleaui was always on hand at Titans to provide guidance and support.

“Tino gives a helping hand in everything that we do and teaches us about the stepping stones to get to where he is.”

Cooper said City coach Jordan Rankin had been instilling the Maroons values in the side during camp this week.

“He has just reinforced that DNA of putting maximum effort in and being able to work for each other and as a team,” Cooper said.

Rankin, said he was looking forward to seeing Cooper in action on Saturday.

“Cooper is a really good kid,” Rankin said.

“He obviously comes with good pedigree, being a Bai, so I’m looking forward to seeing him play.

“I like the way he’s physical. He’s a guy that wants to take on all the information, he’s willing to ask questions and better himself every day, which is what it’s all about at their age.

“Cooper’s a really strong opposing sort of body and to look at he's a tall, rangy kid that's got a lot of good traits. Again, I'm looking forward to seeing him take on the contest on Saturday.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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