Cooper announces new club is ... fight club
Sonny Bill Williams has offered to give up half his pay packet with Sydney Roosters next season to help lure Quade Cooper to the club from rugby union.
Williams made the extraordinary offer at a press conference to announce that he would fight South Africa's Francois Botha for the WBA International heavyweight belt at Brisbane Entertainment Centre on February 8.
Cooper, who earlier attended training with Queensland Reds, but has no contract beyond December 31 after rejecting an incentive based deal from the ARU, will make his boxing debut as a cruiserweight on the undercard of the WBA KO To Drugs event.
Despite expressing a desire to continue playing for the Reds, Cooper indicated that he was resigned to his future now being either in France's Top 14 rugby union competition or a code switch to play in the NRL.
While NRL clubs say they cannot accommodate the Wallabies playmaker under the salary cap, Williams said there was interest in Cooper and he would be prepared to take a 50 per cent pay cut so the Roosters could sign him.
"I have been one of his big supporters even before we joined up as a team and I have no doubt that he has got that ability to succeed in the 13-man game," Williams said.
"I think there's reports coming out that no-one wants him and I think that obviously they are playing the media game that they have to play, but I have been there when clubs have rung up and enquired about his services.
"I would probably go as far as to say that I, myself, would give him half my pay packet to lure him across and they're not just words.
‘‘I would really do that because I think he would be great, not just for the game, but great for our game as well.
"I definitely would."
Cooper grew up playing league in New Zealand alongside Roosters centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall and while the 24-year-old hasn't played since his teens, he is confident he could adapt to the NRL.
"Obviously I played rugby league as a kid growing up and I stopped playing when I was about 17 or 18 so that is a fair bit of time away from the game in a professional sense, but I am sure that not too much can change over that period," Cooper said.
However, Cooper made it clear that he was keen to stay with the Reds after signing a three-year deal earlier this year.
He has been in talks with Reds chief executive Jim Carmichael, chairman Rod McCall and coach Ewen McKenzie but unless they can convince the ARU to offer him a contract more befitting his status in the game Cooper will not play Super Rugby next season.
"As it stands as of now I am still contracted until the end of December, but I don't really have an option to continue forward with in rugby union at the moment," he said.
"Rugby is a game I love, I was brought up playing rugby union and rugby league, but I have been at the Reds since I was about 15 years of age so for me that desire will never go.
"It is something I hold very close to my heart. I have got great support there, great mates and my coach is a guy who has put a lot of support in me and I very much value that. Also the organisation, Jim Carmichael and Rod McCall, every time there has been an issue I have had they have come and worked things out right away as they are doing right now and my desire for rugby will never fade. It is something I very much love but it is kind of out of my hands at the moment."
Cooper's manager Khoder Nasser, who is the promoter of the fight, said: "I think the ARU has made their point and let that be known. The way they value Quade it gives Quade no choice. He has no problems with the Reds, he loves playing for the Reds, he signed a three year deal with the Reds, but that was on the proviso he came to an agreement with the ARU, which hasn't come to fruition and therefore the Reds situation gets nullified and he has to miss out on that situation where he really enjoys that environment".
Even if Cooper can't resolve his differences with the ARU, Williams said he had plenty of options.
"With Quade from the outside looking in it looks like he is in a bit of a predicament but I know that when one door closes, with Quade and the potential that he has, quite a few other doors have opened so he is in a pretty good position at the moment," Williams said.
"He just needs to be patient and persevere and do what he does and that is go to training every day, work hard and tick all of those little boxes. Having been involved with this bout, the last few years I haven't had a pre-season, I have just had fights and I have been one of the fittest in the team coming back and mentally I have felt refreshed so I think this is only going to help him no matter what path he goes down."
Sydney Morning Herald