Photos emerge from Dragons reunion after Matt Cooper's shock boycott

Matt Cooper, pictured here in action for the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Matt Cooper didn't attend the Dragons' premiership reunion. Image: St George Illawarra Dragons/Getty

Photos have emerged from the Dragons' 2010 premiership reunion after Matt Cooper revealed he'd boycotted the event due to an ugly falling out with the club. Players and former coach Wayne Bennett gathered last Friday to commemorate their 32-8 victory over the Roosters in the 2010 grand final.

The celebrations were meant to take place in 2020 for the 10-year anniversary, but were delayed two years due to the Covid pandemic. Cooper, who played centre for the Dragons in the grand final, took to Twitter over the weekend to reveal his reasons for skipping the reunion.

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"I want to apologise to my 2010 premiership team for not attending the 10-12 year reunion," Cooper wrote on Twitter. "The reason why I did not attend was I didn’t want to make a scene and ruin a special occasion! Knowing former CEO and a player who did not even play in the game were going to be there."

Matt Cooper, pictured here with Ben Hornby and Jason Nightingale after the Anzac Day game in 2010.
Matt Cooper (centre) with Ben Hornby and Jason Nightingale after the Anzac Day game in 2010. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The CEO at the time was Peter Doust, however the player Cooper is referring to is unclear. Photos posted on social media by the club show Darius Boyd, Dean Young, Matt Prior and Neville Costigan were also not in attendance.

The likes of Ben Hornby, Jamie Soward, Ben Creagh, Brett Morris, Mark Gasnier, Jason Nightingale and Michael Weyman were all there to celebrate. And the photos might give a clue as to the player Cooper is referring to.

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The only players in attendance at the reunion who did not play in the grand final were Dan Hunt (who missed out due to injury), Kyle Stanley, Nick Emmett and Bronx Goodwin. Cooper followed up with another tweet several hours later.

"I can see a lot of people are wondering why I sent that tweet, it was my only way to let the players know why I wasn’t there," he said. "With the why, it has to do with what happened to me when I retired. I’m not ready to share that right now, but the truth will come out next year."

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Matt Cooper in ugly falling out with Dragons

According to reporter Adam Lucius: "It's understood Cooper believed he would be offered some sort of role or support post-retirement but nothing came of it. Former teammates were disappointed the 43-year-old decided not to attend the premiership reunion and were in the dark about the reasons behind it."

Cooper has since told Wide World of Sports that he wants to wait until the 2023 NRL season begins before telling his story. He said: "I want to wait until next season and the footy shows are back on TV to reach a maximum audience."

Cooper has previously blasted the culture at the Dragons, lashing out after only three players attended the end-of-season awards night. "There’s no pride in the jersey anymore," he tweeted.

"From 2001-2011 we only missed the finals twice. Since then, we’ve only made them twice. Obviously it changed when Wayne Bennett left. It all starts from the top… that’s where the culture comes from.

"There’s no pride in the jersey now, no team-first attitude. You can see that when players are asking to be released – and I’m not blaming them. There’s a reason they want to go elsewhere."

Cooper played 244 first grade games - all with St George Illawarra - scoring 125 tries. He also played 13 games for NSW in State of Origin and seven Test matches for Australia.

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