It was 2011 at Shark Park in Cronulla, when 9-year-old Cooper first met a rising star of the Raiders, a young headgear wearing centre who at that stage was getting through his third season in first grade.
That star was Jarrod Croker, and since that day in the Shire, the two have stayed in touch and have spent many weekends at GIO Stadium, with Jarrod doing his thing on the field and Cooper cheering from the Grandstands.
Cooper's special send off
When Ricky Stuart returned to the club as Coach in 2014, Jarrod introduced Cooper to his new Coach, after learning more about the Ricky Stuart Foundation, which connects and assists families touched by Autism.
Since that first meeting the Raiders Coach has also forged a personal connection with Cooper and his family. Cooper has also shared a connection with Raiders rising star Hudson Young, who formally worked as a Learning Support Assistant with Cooper at his school.
When Stuart and Croker heard Cooper was graduating High School this year, they worked with his family to help deliver something special for him ahead of his year 12 formal. On Wednesday afternoon at the clubs new Headquarters in Braddon, the Raiders squad stayed back after training to wish Cooper all the best for his big night and gave him a special Viking Clap Send-off as he made his way out of the building.
Croker said it was a gesture of support for Cooper, who had been such a huge supporter of his and the clubs for most of his career.
“I remember the first time I met Cooper and you could just see how much he loved the Raiders,” Croker said, “That hasn’t changed one bit since and it’s been a privilege to give him a special way to celebrate a big milestone for him.”