Matt Cooper

Matt Cooper

St George Illawarra Dragons centre Matt Cooper has on Wednesday announced his decision to retire from rugby league after 243 games, the third highest capped Dragon of all time behind Ben Hornby (273) and Norm Provan (256).

Cooper, 34, a local Illawarra junior from the Shellharbour Sharks, played his final game against the South Sydney Rabbitohs in round 19 where he suffered a season-ending pectoral muscle injury.

“I have had some time to contemplate my future since the pec injury and this was not a decision that I have made easily as playing football is something that I love and it has been second-nature to me ever since I was a local junior growing up and playing in the Shellharbour area,” said Cooper.

“I always dreamed of playing first-grade football and I am very proud to have been a one club player and have loved every minute of my time at the Dragons. It is a fantastic Club and I am very grateful to have been a part of it for such a long time.

“Unfortunately injury has cost me some games over the past two seasons which has been very frustrating and disappointing and finishing my career with an injury is certainly not the way that I wanted things to end.

“I feel very fortunate and privileged to have had the opportunities and the career that I have had and have loved every minute of representing the Dragons as well as my state and country.”

Cooper made his first grade debut for the Club in the opening round of the 2000 campaign against the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and has scored 124 tries over 14 seasons.