Melbourne Storm rookie Dustin Cooper�s road to first grade has been one littered with obstacles and irregularities.
The 22-year-old former concreter was signed by the Storm just over a month ago but had to wait until last Saturday�s win over Wests before making an impact in the NRL.
After starting the season with Redcliffe in the Queensland Cup, Cooper was picked up by the Storm with a view to adding some bite to the club�s backline.
However a contract stipulation did not permit Cooper to play in the Queensland Cup upon signing with the Storm. This left Cooper with the dilemma of not having shown enough to warrant first grade selection yet not being able to play for Storm feeder club Brisbane Norths either.
With Cooper unable to play in Queensland and Victoria there was only one solution � New South Wales.
A game with Newtown was arranged and thankfully Cooper showed enough to receive a call up for the Storm�s round 14 clash with Penrith. In 15 minutes he again proved his worth and was on course for a start the following week.
After being named in the Storm side to take on the Bulldogs, his bid for run-on selection was again thwarted following a training accident that left him with a badly corked thigh and consequently out of the Melbourne side.
�I knew I was going to play and then I had a little mishap at training after running into a big Fijian but I knew my chance would come,� Cooper said.
�It was hard sitting in the grandstands watching the boys but it comes with the territory I guess and I�ve moved passed it now.�
Finally the former Queensland under 19�s player got his chance against the Tigers last Saturday night and he didn�t let it slip. A try in the opening six minutes with his first touch was the beginning of an impressive night.
As a season of dramatically changing fortunes rolls on Cooper believes years of hard work may finally have started to pay off.
�It�s been a bit of a quick rise considering I was playing for Redcliffe a month ago but this is what I�ve worked for,� Cooper added.
�Some people go to university but I put that aside and worked plenty of crap jobs to fulfil a career in football.
�It�s taken a long time because I�m 22 and a lot of players I�ve played junior representative football with have all cemented NRL careers.
�I certainly wouldn�t say that I�ve arrived because there are a lot of inconsistencies that I�ve got to get out of my game but I was pretty happy with my first full match for the Storm.�
Cooper has followed the road less travelled this season but is philosophical about the unusual conditions that almost derailed his rise to the top grade.
�I was a little bit dirty about not being able to play in the Queensland Cup again this year but I can see where they (Redcliffe) were coming from,� Cooper said.
�I didn�t want my football to suffer because halfway through the season I had to find a new team and get in with a new bunch of blokes. But going to Newtown for a week or so made my transition easier because I knew a couple of guys there and they were very supportive.
�From here on in I just want to get some consistency in my game and try and hold down a place for Melbourne for the rest of the year.�
STORM TRAINING THIS WEEK Tuesday: 2pm, Gosch�s Paddock Wednesday: 9.30am, Gosch�s Paddock Thursday: 2pm, Olympic Park Saturday: 11am, Olympic Park
For further information contact James Avery: Phone (03) 9421 3222 Mobile: 0411 623 024 [email protected]