Tigers College student Ben Cooper recently had the honour of being involved in an international rugby league game where he was involved in a European Combined Nations side which took on the Netherlands national team last weekend.
The match was held in the city of Zaandam at Zaandijk Rugby ground just north of Amsterdam, where Holland ended up taking a 52-28 victory.
When speaking to castlefordtigers.com, Cooper first explained that his community club coach’s involvement with the Dutch national team opened up the amazing opportunity for him.
“It was a bit of a shock to be totally honest. I got a phone call earlier that week to fly out to Amsterdam to play with the combined nations and it was a chance I couldn’t turn down.
“Before I knew I was out there, it was crazy. One of my junior coaches from my community club at Goole Vikings, Paul Petit, who coached me from about 13 years old is the Netherlands deputy head coach. He rang me up to ask if I’d like to come over and play. I thought it over for a while thinking if I should go for it, but I was so pleased I did because it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
The young Tiger started the fixture at hooker, stepping up to take on kicking duties during the match and showed great accuracy from the tee, knocking over four of his five attempts at the posts.
Reflecting on a hard-fought game, Cooper outlined that he was pleased with the team’s and his own performance before affirming that the experience will only aid his rugby league development despite the defeat.
“The Netherlands were a tough and physical side. They were up for it right from the start and it was an arm wrestle. I was happy with how I got on from hooker and did the best I could. The scoreline didn’t reflect how we played to say we hadn’t trained together before and only met each other the day before the game.
“I took on the kicking duties on the day and I kicked four out of five conversions which I shocked myself with really. It was a massive honour to be part of it. I was quite nervous being away from home but I really enjoyed it. It was great to be involved playing against senior players because the Netherlands lads definitely knew how to play rugby league. For me as a young lad to develop my game out there was a big thing for me.”
Ben has just started his first year at Castleford Tigers Foundation’s Tigers College, where students have access to top level coaching and facilities alongside gaining vital education qualifications along the way.
Despite only being a few weeks into his time with the college, it’s clear to see that the opportunities that it presents have already had a positive impact on Cooper.
“The facilities here are brilliant and you get treated like a first team player. Being in and around the professional environment is what you want as a young player. You want to have the physios, coaching staff, and nutrition advice because you need all that as a player and you definitely get all that and more being part of the college setup.”
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