Cowwarr Football Netball Club has been blessed with some great servants over the years – from late legendary clubman Andrew ‘Angry’ Hollonds to beloved volunteer Stephanie O’Brien – but one family has provided more than most.
A handful of former teammates including Jason Eenjes, Kevin Hood and Matt Cameron will lace up the boots to help celebrate the occasion when the Saints take on Traralgon-Tyers United in the reserves clash.
Sons of 200-game Saints champs and brothers Steve Cooper and Gary Cooper, cousins Lee and Luke’s football paths have always been intrinsically aligned.
The pair joined the club as young men and immediately established themselves as permanent fixtures in the senior side – Luke as a ball-winning, eye-catching midfielder and Lee as the consummate role player, slotting into defence and attack as required.
They have seen their share of highs and lows throughout the journey, but the latter are easier to take when the pinnacle is a senior premiership, which they managed to experience in 2006 – the Saints’ first and last flag since 1987.
Their respective roads to the 300 club has varied slightly in recent years.
Lee “basically retired” four years ago, but struggles to stay away when numbers are short, making 17 appearances in the reserves over the past two-and-a-bit seasons.
“Of the 300 games we’ve probably played 90 per cent of them in the same team and I couldn’t think of a better bloke to run out there with,” Luke said.
Lee agreed the opportunity to share the stage together on such an occasion was as special as it was remarkable.
“We’ve only played one game together this year but we would have played 250 games together I reckon and Luke’s probably the best player I’ve played with. He’s the bloke that people say ‘you got to play with Luke Cooper’,” Lee said.
Luke may be able to lay claim to a host of individual honours, including multiple club best and fairest awards and the 2011 Sel Burley Medal as the NGFNL’s senior best and fairest player, but playing alongside his brother, Stephen, Lee and a group of mates outshines those achievements as his career highlight.
However, their contribution stretches well beyond the footy field.
Both men have served as coaches and committee members.
When no one put their hand up to coach the reserves side this year, Lee took it on.
When Lee has work commitments, Luke helps out, in addition to pitching in with the thirds each week.
Even this weekend, Luke and Lee are planning to put on some food and shout their mates a beer to say thanks for helping them celebrate their milestone.
Cowwarr has no set criteria for life membership, so it often takes more than 200 games to quality, but it’s hardly a surprise that Luke and Lee are part of that club.
Probably the best part of this story from the Cowwarr’s perspective is that the passion for the club is showing no signs of waning, even if the playing days are nearly at an end.
“I would play every week and until I was 50 if my body would allow me,” Luke said.
“Being a small community club we want to help out and make sure it continues to be strong and everyone can enjoy being a part of it as much as we have.”
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This post was written by Michelle Kyle