BROTHERLY LOVE: Lewis and Austin Cooper have signed with Sawtell Panthers for the 2018 Group 2 league season.
BROTHERLY LOVE: Lewis and Austin Cooper have signed with Sawtell Panthers for the 2018 Group 2 league season.

Cooper brothers leave Rebels to create new legacy

RUGBY LEAGUE: New town. New club. New lease on life.

That is the motto of South Grafton brothers Austin and Lewis Cooper as they set off on the biggest change in their lives, taking up offers with the Sawtell Panthers.

The brothers followed in the footsteps of their father, and South Grafton Rebels club legend Scott Cooper, into the red and white.

Both brothers played their junior football with the Rebels before rising through the ranks to play first grade together in 2017.

But after a tough end to the season, and limited game time through the finals series, Austin and Lewis decided to make a bold move.

"We have probably been thinking about this since a bit after the grand final,” Austin said. "Once we found out Lachie (Miller) and Rod (Hardy) had taken over as coaches at Sawtell, it made the move a lot easier.

"It's a shame because Lachie is gone now to Sydney rugby, but I think the change will be good for us.”

Lewis said the brothers had become a little disenfranchised at the Rebels, and needed to break free of the shackles.

"The (Rebels) is just not the same anymore and we don't feel comfortable playing there anymore,” Lewis said.

"I wasn't getting a fair go, Aussie wasn't getting a fair go. By the end of the year it just didn't feel like the same club as at the start of the year. It is just what happens sometimes.

"We're just looking for a bit of a fresh start. New club, new town, new life.”

Lewis, 17, finished school at South Grafton High School last year and hopes to take up an apprenticeship at a bakery in Sawtell while Austin is expected to continue personal training studies before taking up a job at a local gym.

The pair began pre-season training with the Panthers this week and said almost 40 players turned up for the first session of the year.

While he said the number of players was great to see, Austin admitted it made the fight for a spot in first grade just that much harder.

"I don't think there is a guaranteed spot in any first grade side. You need to work your arse off in pre-season and prove you deserve that opportunity,” he said.

"We just need to keep training, keep pushing and we will get a spot. We know what Rod wants from us and we will work toward that.”

With more than two decades in the red and white, as well as a season at both Grafton Ghosts and Lower Clarence Magpies, there is no doubting their father Scott had built a legacy in the Clarence Valley.

And Lewis admitted it was a hard legacy to turn his back on.

"It feels weird playing for a different club because Rebels is pretty much all we have ever known,” he said.

"It might upset a few people around that club but that is just the way it is, you can't live for everyone else.”

Regardless they have their father's blessing who said he was "proud” of his sons chasing new pastures.