Quade Cooper. Photo by Getty
If local media reports are to be believed, Australia
flyhalf Quade Cooper's international rugby career was over
yesterday, just four years and 38 matches after he emerged on
the test stage with a decisive try on debut.
The 24-year-old was variously described as being set for a
new career in boxing or rugby league, or perhaps staying in
union in the lucrative French or Japanese leagues, after
turning down a new contract with the Australian Rugby Union
A spokesman for the ARU said the reports were speculation as
the governing body had heard nothing from Cooper, currently
sidelined by a knee injury, or his management team about the
New Zealand-born player's plans.
The ARU spokesman would not confirm the contents of the
contract offer but media reports suggested it was the sort of
pay-as-you-play deal that would usually be offered to those
outside the top echelons of the national set-up.
Negotiations over a deal resumed late last month after Cooper
was fined A$40,000 for describing the Wallabies camp as a
"toxic environment" he felt was "destroying" him.
The fine completed a miserable 12 months for Cooper, which
started when he limped out of the World Cup with a seriously
damaged knee after being labelled 'public enemy number one'
in the land of his birth.
In the preceding three years, however, Cooper had established
himself as the top flyhalf in Australia and one of the most
exciting talents in rugby.
His incisive passing, quick feet and ability to glide across
the front of opposition defences before spotting a gap helped
Australia move up to second in the world rankings behind the
Cooper scored the decisive try on his debut against Italy in
Padua on the November tour of 2008 and made his first test
start against England at Twickenham the following year.
In 2010, he was named Super Rugby player of the year as he
helped fire the revival of the Queensland Reds with 171
points and then cemented his place as first choice Wallabies
flyhalf, starting 13 tests including a win over the All
His star continued to rise in 2011, when he helped Queensland
to a first ever Super Rugby title and Australia to a first
Tri-Nations title in a decade.
Not all were convinced of his talent, however, particularly
in New Zealand.
He was dubbed "Carlos lite" in reference to his boyhood hero
Carlos Spencer and there was much schadenfreude when Cooper
had a disappointing World Cup.
He never quite got back into his stride on his return from
injury this year and there was little in his game to suggest
opposition defences had not figured him out by simply closing
down the time and space he enjoyed on the ball.
While he struggled to regain his form on the pitch, his
relationship with Wallabies coach Robbie Deans and the ARU
deteriorated, culminating in his outbursts initially on
Twitter and then in a TV interview.
Despite that, he appeared to have few issues with Queensland
or Reds head coach Ewen McKenzie and signed a new deal to
remain at the side until the end of 2015.
That deal was always contingent upon his signing a top up
contract with the ARU, however.
"The frustration has been that we came to terms with Quade
some time ago, back in June now, and he declared his
intentions to rugby and to us for three years," McKenzie
"He's given us his word on that topic. I think I spoke to him
maybe seven or eight days ago and, as far as I was concerned,
I've never felt that he was going to do anything other than
play for the Reds."
Cooper has also consistently said he would like to play
alongside Sonny Bill Williams, who recently turned his back
on the All Blacks to return to rugby league with the Sydney
Williams, who combines his rugby career with boxing, and
Cooper share the same manager in Khoder Nasser, who has
promised a news conference on the flyhalf's future next week.
Although a boxing career seems unlikely, a move to rugby
league, or even union in France or Japan, would rule out a
return to the Wallabies, for the foreseeable future at least.