SIGNING ON: Former Rebel one step closer to league dream
RUGBY LEAGUE: After making the move from South Grafton to Sydney in the pursuit of playing top-grade rugby league, Lewis Cooper went one step closer to his goal earlier this month when he put pen to paper and signed with player management company Lombardi Sports Management on a two-year deal.
Cooper has also earned a one-year contract with the Canterbury Bulldogs, which sees him playing for the feeder club Moorebank Rams and listed as one of the top 30 players in their Under-20s system.
Cooper's mother Janita said the opportunity came about after Mick Holland, the father of Bulldogs centre Kerrod, helped Lewis get a trial with the club in November last year.
"Luke (Lombardi) is Kerrod's manager and Kerrod helped the two of them meet up, Luke watched a few games and he was impressed by Lewis and offered him a two-year contract," Janita said.
"It's hugely exciting for him. He trains with the Bulldogs twice a week, and two nights a week with Moorebank.
"It's a big step up in competition compared to Group 2, but he is holding his own down there."
Lewis reached the Group 2 grand final last season with the Sawtell Panthers Under-18 side, going down to minor premiers Macksville Sea Eagles 16-12 before the former South Grafton Rebels junior made the move to Sydney in November last year.
Janita said the family is proud of Lewis's efforts in a tough environment.
"It's a big thing for a country kid to step out in the middle of a city and not know anyone around you, it's been a big challenge for him," Janita said.
"The biggest thing is being able to get past some of the homesickness and the fact his family isn't around, but if he can work through that it'll go a long way towards him making it into the Bulldogs team.
"The club has been really good to him, and he has an uncle there who has dinner with him of a Sunday so that's a bonus, plus he has his partner, which is a huge help."
Janita also sang the praises of his manager, who has been a valuable asset to Lewis.
"His manager is just fantastic and I would highly recommend him," she said.
"He is really down to earth and has really made Lewis feel comfortable, so we're grateful he has come on board."