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Cooper Clarke wins the vote for 2024 Mal Meninga Cup weapon of the year

Hard-running Sunshine Coast Falcons prop Cooper Clarke has been voted by fans as the 2024 Mal Meninga Cup “weapon of the year” following a destructive season from the Melbourne Storm affiliate.

Still only 17, Clarke made quite the impact in his first year in Queensland Rugby League’s junior pathways, after he was signed to the Storm from the New South Wales Rugby League’s Harold Matthews Cup last year.

Clarke – who turns 18 in July – won with 48 per cent of the vote, with 7990 submissions made.

The weapon of the year nominees came from those who were selected each week in the Mal Meninga Cup as being one of the strongest performers of the round, with Clarke’s Round 10 effort against the Townsville Blackhawks earning him a nod.

Mal Meninga Cup 2024 weapon of the year: Cooper Clarke

In that game the wrecking ball scored two tries and set up a third, and amassed 197 run metres - 107 post-contact - with 11 tackle busts, three line breaks, two offloads and a mammoth 31 tackles, all in 64 minutes in the middle.

This was the norm for Clarke, who also hit over 160 run metres in Rounds 2, 7, 8 and 11 and often made 30-plus tackles a game.

Originating from Campbelltown, this is just the beginning for the young forward.

“It feels pretty good just knowing I have the support of people and the support of family and friends and the fans,” Clarke said of the weapon of the year title.

“I like the form I’m in but I could always improve… you can always improve every part of your game. There are the little effort areas that I know I can be better at.”

Clarke played his junior football with Eagle Vale St Andrews and Ingleburn Tigers – and attended school at St Gregory's College in Campbelltown - but was spotted by the Storm while playing Harold Matthews with Western Suburbs.

He is now signed with Melbourne until the end of 2026 and is living in Queensland this year to learn through the Storm’s Sunshine Coast Academy and to complete his schooling at Caloundra State High School.

The grade 12 student said it had occurred to him that scouts could be watching, but he just focused on his game.

“It was always a thought (that scouts were watching) but I just kept working hard and hoped that it would be out there for me some day,” he said.

“Since moving up here, I’ve learnt a lot about the sport and a lot of new techniques and how to better my game and myself.

“The people up here are great and everyone has made me feel welcome and showed a lot of love and support.

“I’ve learnt to not listen to the outside noise because it can get a bit overwhelming after a while. The training gets hard but if you keep ripping in and trying your best, it will come out in the end.”

What a weapon: Cooper Clarke

He said the best influences for him so far this year have been his coaches at the Academy and Caloundra State High School, as well as Mal Meninga Cup mentor, Cam Boaza.

But the most important person to his rugby league trajectory so far has been his brother, Zakauri Clarke.

“He plays Jersey Flegg for Wests Tigers,” Clarke said of his older brother.

“I saw what he was doing… he was working hard and keeping his head down and it motivated me to get better myself.

“I like to think of myself as someone who likes to win and put the team first.

“If I can make an impact on my team by working hard and leading from the front, I hope it motivates my team to do the same.”

With the Mal Meninga Cup coming to an end this weekend in a grand final battle between the Burleigh Bears and Tweed Seagulls, Clarke will turn his attention to continuing his development through the Sunshine Coast Academy and through his school footy at Caloundra.

Next year he will move once again, this time heading down to Victoria to begin the next chapter of his rugby league career.

“After I finish school, I will move down to Melbourne for two years, which are the remaining years in my contract,” he said.

“But hopefully I can stay down there as long as possible and get the goal of playing NRL.”

Catch all the Mal Meninga Cup grand final action live and free at and Kayo Freebies this Saturday, May 25.

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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