Quade Cooper Re-signs with ARU
by Brendan Bradford –
Quade Cooper and the ARU have ended seven months of often bitter contract negotiations with the Wallabies and Reds play-maker signing a two-year deal reportedly worth up to $800,000 a year.
A three-year deal Cooper signed with the Reds in June was dependent on the 38-test Wallaby re-signing with the ARU – an arrangement that was jeopardised after Cooper’s public criticism of the Wallabies saw him slapped with a $40,000 fine and an incentive-based contract offer from the ARU. Cooper’s rejection of the decreased deal lead to speculation he would defect to league or take up an offer overseas.
The $800,000 deal, signed late last week is believed to be similar to the one the ARU withdrew in the wake of Cooper’s assertions that the culture of the Wallabies was “toxic,” indicating a significant reversal by the code’s governing body.
With 71 Super Rugby caps, Cooper has put the contract debacle behind him and is focusing on the future which includes a February 8 boxing match on the Sonny-Bill Williams-Francois Botha under-card.
“It’s a very happy moment, to be able to continue my career with the Reds and hopefully the Wallabies is pretty exciting,” Cooper said.
“Now I can concentrate on my footy career and my upcoming boxing fight.”
Cooper was roundly lambasted for his sub-par performance at last year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, but the creative play-maker was a vital element in the Reds’ debut Super Rugby Championship success and Australia’s Tri-Nations triumph earlier in 2011.
After an extended stint on the sidelines following knee-surgery, Cooper again showed his worth for the Reds towards the end of the 2012 Super Rugby season. Returning in Round 13 with Queensland well behind the Brumbies in the Australian conference and mid-table overall, Cooper led the side to five straight wins, the top of the Australian ladder and a home qualifying-final against the Sharks. He missed that match through suspension and the Reds bowed out of the competition.
Cooper’s importance to the Reds is further highlighted by the fact that in the past two seasons, the side has won 20 of the 23 games he has featured in but only six of the 12 he hasn’t played.
At test level, Cooper has ambitions to reclaim his No. 10 jersey ahead of the British and Irish Lions tour next year but faces stiff competition from incumbent fly-half and good friend Kurtley Beale.
“I always wanted Kurtley to go well at No.10 and he went very well,” Cooper told the Courier Mail last week.
“When you watch anyone playing in your position, it does get the competitive juices flowing. Whether it’s playing FIFA 2013 as a video game with KB or doing extras at training, we compete and push each other. No matter who it is, I want to be challenging for that spot.”
Although he has an apparently strained relationship with Robbie Deans, Cooper said “of course” he would be willing to play under the national coach, who is contracted to the end of 2013.
“He’s the coach,” Cooper said.
“It (their relationship) is not something I have to improve. His job is to coach and get the best out of the team. My first goal is to get back out there for Queensland and then if I play well the opportunity will arise to play for my country. It is a big year coming up.”
Deans meanwhile defended Cooper’s poor World Cup form and remained open to having him back in the Wallabies fold.
“To be frank I don’t want to pore over history,” Deans told Fairfax.
”Let’s not forget I’m the bloke that picked him first and continued to pick him, continued to back him. I’m a believer.”
The Reds open their 2013 Super Rugby campaign against the Brumbies in Round One on February 16, just eight days after Cooper’s boxing debut in Brisbane.