The Warrington Faithful
Prop forward Mike Cooper made his first team debut back in 2006 for his hometown club but his love for Warrington started many years before that.
On the day that Mike leaves the UK for Australia we look back at his time with the club as we ask him some of your questions.
Mike has always had a strong link to Rugby League and in particular the Warrington club though his family roots; that's how the story began.
"It's in the family as a lot of people know with my uncle being Paul Cullen. Sunday afternoons were spent talking about rugby in the Cullen household and it was just a natural progression. Where we lived in Appleton at the time backed onto the old Warrington sports club with two good pitches and me, my brother and my dad would spend afternoons on there playing rugby running at the posts, sidestepping and things like that. It was always going to happen, it was expected, I did it and thoroughly enjoyed it and have never looked back since."
As a local lad he's grown as a player, progressing through the ranks and believes it an honour to have represented his hometown team.
"I'm unbelievably proud. I've been here since I was 11 years old and I still remember the first time when I was selected for the team and how that felt, the first time I played first grade and the first time I won a Challenge Cup final. There have been some real highlights for me throughout my career at Warrington; being a Warrington lad you can't ask for much more than to play for your hometown team. It's been a great seven years."
Mike may be heading to play on the other side of the world but his earliest Rugby League memories will always be from his childhood at Wilderspool.
"I remember going down to Wilderspool, standing on the 20 yard line towards the away end, which is where we used to stand. We were the family that had the confetti, that cut up the yellow pages and went to watch the games both home and away. We were real full-on Warrington fans. There were some not so good performances in those days but we supported home and away. And then there's that natural progression from watching it, joining the academy and then off you go. I'm 100% a Warrington lad in that sense."
The Wolves may have enjoyed recent success winning silverware but it's not these finals that go down as Mike's favourite match in a Warrington shirt.
"The Challenge Cup semi final in 2009 which we played at Widnes against Wigan. We won that and went on to Wembley. There was pressure building up to that game; we knew what was at stake for the club, the fans and the town so to go on and win that game against a team that was playing decent rugby - we probably weren't favourites going into it - that one game stands out to me as being a favourite."
"Emotional, stressful and proud" is how Mike would sum up his time at Warrington. To have a lasting heritage number as part of the club's history also means a lot to him.
"I think it's a fantastic concept as it really does mean a lot to the players. We've all been down to the wall in the south stand and looked at the timeline. To see your name up there is something you'll always remember; the players you played alongside to be part of this history and have the number to make it official is something we all genuinely appreciate.
"I've done the best I can for this club. I've worn my heart on my sleeve and gave it my best all the time."
So the next playing jersey Mike will pull on will be the NRL colours of St George Ilawarra Dragons but why the move Down Under?
"Apart from the weather today which has been horrendous (laughs) it's something I've always wanted to do and felt like I need a change of scenery. I've been here a long time, since I was 11 years old. I've done the same drive to training for a number of years and sometimes it's good to go away and try and challenge yourself a little bit. It doesn't mean I won't be back maybe at some point, we don't know what will happen in the future."
He may be moving on but playing in front of the barmy army has meant the world to Mike.
"The Warrington fans are highly known as being the best in Super League - just the noise - I think that has won us a lot of games with the opposition team hearing the noise when they come out of the tunnel here at the HJ. The Warrington faithful have been strong throughout and I was part of that for many years so to then play in front of them was great."
Mike's final message to you, the fans.
"I'd just like to say - to all the Warrington fans - thank you very much. Over the years, especially in some of the dark times in my early career through injury, the support I have had from all the Warrington people and outside of the Warrington club has been unbelievable. Sorry we couldn't get the icing on the cake with the Grand Final but I'll be watching Warrington throughout my Australian career."
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(photo courtesy of swpix)
21, Oct, 2013