Cooper's early exit

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The eight-year St Helens career of Shane Cooper has ended ignominiously at the hands of the league's disciplinary committee, writes Dave Hadfield. The Saints and former New Zealand captain has been banned for five matches after being cited by Halifax for a clash last week that left their forward, Martin Ketteridge, with stitches and a suspected broken nose.

The suspension will not only keep Cooper out of tomorrow's Premiership semi-final against Leeds and the final at Old Trafford next week if Saints win, it also marks the end of his stint with St Helens.

The club had already told him that he was not to be re-signed for next season. "Going out through the disciplinary is a bad way to go after eight years," Cooper said. "I was surprised at the severity of the sentence because I thought I was innocent. We both went in with our elbows up and he came off worse."

With Chris Joynt also out because of a knee injury, the Australian veteran, Phil Veivers, or the reserves, Chris Morley and Sean Casey, are the candidates to wear Cooper's jersey.

Leeds have an even more illustrious loose-forward missing. Ellery Hanley is still unfit with a shoulder injury. Gary Mercer continues in Hanley's usual position.