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Can there be anything more curious than paying $650,000 per annum to a fit, 30-year-old, Super Rugby and Rugby Championship winning flyhalf – with 70 Test caps and 129 Super Rugby matches under his belt – to play club rugby in Brisbane?
There has been a fundamental lack of common sense in how Australian and Queensland rugby have (mis)managed Quade this season.
From all reports, Cooper has been a great representative and role model in the local community for both Queensland and Australian rugby, and there have been no incidents to mar his image, as there were earlier in his career.
He took his lumps, has avoided controversy, and maintained a high standard of professionalism inside and outside the game. He has matured late, but better late than never.
Unfortunately for Quade, there is an attitude by many fans and folks running the game that he has somehow brought this on himself due to a perceived selfishness and lack of commitment.
Sure, Cooper has defensive deficiencies, but he’s not alone in that department in the Wallabies backline. When Michael Cheika dropped him from the squad, he said Cooper needed to start enjoying his rugby again, which is an obtuse comment that doesn’t really throw much light on what the national coach thinks the real issues are in Quade’s game.
Maybe this is Cheika’s way of publicly protecting Quade, but hopefully he received more specific information than that. It’s hard to know what work-ons are necessary, besides enjoyment, when a person is trying to rebuild and improve their professional athletic career in a team sport.
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The second body blow to Cooper came from Brad Thorn when he took over the Reds.
It is Thorn’s prerogative to pick the squad he wants and put his stamp on the team, however, once again, we didn’t receive a clear explanation from a head coach as to why Cooper is now incompatible with the team he has been a major part of for most of his career.
Thorn said Cooper is definitely not part of his future plans and is no longer required in the Reds squad, implying Quade is somehow detrimental to Thorn’s new team culture and focus on youth.
But the coach’s change in direction doesn’t explain why George Smith and Scott Higginbotham have been retained if renewal is the goal – both are senior players, with a history of injury, and recent indiscretions that have required a ‘please explain’ from Rugby Australia.
The crux of the dilemma is that Cooper currently finds himself being paid by RA and the Queensland Rugby Union not to play. This is seriously weird stuff considering RA’s financial position and when our No.10 stocks are at an all-time low.
What is even more ridiculous, if true, are reports that the Rebels and Brumbies made offers to Quade but these were rejected by the player and his manager.
We are not privy to the details but surely RA could have been more proactive in gaining a workable financial resolution with the Reds and either the Brumbies or Rebels to get Cooper playing?
It is indicative of the discordant and secretive state of Australian rugby that the QRU also appears willing and able to lock him out of any other possible option to the detriment of rugby in this country, and hope he just gives up and heads overseas to save the Reds 100 per cent of their remaining contract amount, while RA appears helpless or reluctant to remedy the situation.
Maybe this is deliberate by RA, maybe Quade is yesterday’s hero and he is unwanted, but if that is the case then come clean and work with him on his transition out of Australian rugby. As a former Test player with 70-odd caps, it is the least they could do.
Maybe Quade Cooper needs to give Andrew Forrest a ring – I’m sure he would be a drawcard for any new competition. But it doesn’t really solve the fundamental problems in this case, and the deeper issues within Australian rugby’s contracting system that have led to this ridiculous situation.