ONE OF rugby league’s “characters”, Gary Cooper, has died, aged 80.
A full-back or centre, Cooper had great success as a player for Featherstone Rovers and Wakefield Trinity in the 1950s and 60s and went on to coach York.
The brother of former Hull chairwoman Kath Hetherington - and therefore Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington’s brother in law - Cooper joined Rovers from Featherstone Juniors in 1958.
He went on to make 187 appearances for the club, scoring 43 tries and nine goals and was captain for a spell in 1960.
He was a Great Britain tourist in 1962, making 16 appearances though not featuring in the Test side and was signed by Trinity in 1966 for a £3,000 fee.
Cooper played in Trinity’s 1967 Championship final win over St Helens and received the Harry Sunderland Trophy as man of the match when Wakefield retained the title by beating Hull KR the following year.
He also played in the 1968 Watersplash Challenge Cup final defeat by Leeds at Wembley.
After hanging up his boots, Cooper coached York between 1974 and 1976.
Gary Hetherington said: “Sadly, Gary died yesterday [Sunday] after a heart attack.
“He and Neil Fox were joint-coaches of Wakefield when I joined them, I signed for Gary in 1972.
“He later coached at York as well and he has legendary status there - he revived their fortunes. He left York and went back about when I joined them as a player in the mid-1970s.
“He was one of the game’s characters.”