St George supremo Wayne Bennett has praised the resilience of his team following their gutsy 18-12 victory over Parramatta.
Cooper is expected to be fit for next week’s clash with Canterbury, but Fien could be out for up to six months.
But despite the blow, Bennett was full of praise for the way his players were able to adapt against a highly-rated Parramatta outfit.
He said: “The flexibility of the players to handle a lot of positions for us.”
“We lost Nathan Fien – he’s broken his ankle so it’s a bit of a blow for us.”
“A front rower played in the centres for us tonight, Matty Prior, he did okay too.”
Asked the significance of Fien’s injury which is likely to keep the 30-year-old sidelined for several months, Bennett said: “It is (a blow) and he was playing great tonight too. He’s a very important part of the team.”
Skipper Hornby, who took to the field despite having barely slept or eaten a decent meal in several days due to a troublesome wisdom tooth, personified the Dragons’ courage.
“Early in the week my wisdom tooth came through and my gum got infected,” said Hornby who scored his side’s first try of the season in the sixth minute.
“I couldn’t open my mouth for a day-and-a-half, it’s obviously alright now because I can talk and all that sort of stuff but I haven’t eaten a solid meal for about three days.”
“I’ve been struggling to sleep so that was the only problem and I just couldn’t eat enough to keep a little bit of body weight on. Other than that I’m okay, obviously it’s a lot better after you win.”
Meanwhile, Bennett endorsed his team’s decision to kick two easy penalty goals in the second half rather than attempting to score an elusive third try.
“You leave it to the players (to decide) but I wanted them to take those (penalty kicks),” he said.
“We were tired, it’s the first game of the year, your attack’s not where you want it to be and you know that, so points are vital to you.”
“I just thought at that stage it was better to have points on the board whether it was from a kick or trying to get tries and then panic, turn over cheap ball and find ourselves back on our try line pretty quickly.”