ULTRA-reliable Cowboys back-rower Gavin Cooper says there's no place like North Queensland for him and his young family.
Cooper will remain in Cowboys colours until the end of the 2019 season after signing a two-year contract extension with the club.
The Murgon Mustangs junior started his NRL career with the Cowboys in 2006 before stints at the Gold Coast and Penrith, but he always had his heart set on a return to Townsville.
Cooper reunited with the Cowboys in 2011 where he has become one of the most consistent forwards in the competition, thanks in part to his prolific left-edge combination with good friend and halfback Johnathan Thurston.
Cooper considered offers from rival clubs, but he said they couldn't trump North Queensland as the best fit for him, wife Tenille, and sons Archie, 2, and Reggie, 10 months.
"There were options to leave, but I think raising a family now, Townsville and North Queensland really feels like home," Cooper said.
"I was 18 or 19 when I first moved up here. I met my now wife when I was up here the first time and when I went away to the Titans I nearly came back straight away.
"I ended up having to move a little bit further south to Penrith, but then I always wanted to come back (to the Cowboys).
"My wife's family is from Innisfail ... and my family are in Rocky now so I get to see them a little bit.
"It does feel like home. North Queensland is very relaxed and it suits me down to the ground."
A veteran of 247 NRL games - including 171 for the Cowboys - Cooper is the most experienced member of North Queensland's formidable back row, which also includes young guns Coen Hess, Ethan Lowe and Jason Taumalolo.
The 31-year-old was unsure if he'll keep playing beyond his new deal, but he said he would be happy to see out his career as a forward leader for the Cowboys.
"We've got a pretty special group here that I want to be a part of," he said.
"The boys have really bought into what the culture is about here at the club now with the older boys setting the standards.
"We did an amazing thing in 2015 (winning a premiership) and to be able to continue my footy journey, maybe the last couple of years of my career, up here is pretty special."
Cowboys coach Paul Green described Cooper as the glue that holds the club together with his ability to connect with team mates as well as his tireless work ethic on the field.
"I think one of the strengths of our team over recent years has been the leadership and 'Coops' has been an integral part of that," Green said.
"He's not only added plenty on the field, but he also brings plenty off the field which is important when you're trying to build a good culture.
"He's definitely gotten better with age. I think he's probably matured and he's playing his best footy now which is pleasing for the club. We're the lucky ones to have him on our team."
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