Cooper's departure 'bad for Australian rugby'

Last updated 19:30 20/11/2012
BIG CALL: Quade Cooper has reportedly quit Australian rugby.
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BIG CALL: Quade Cooper has reportedly quit Australian rugby.

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Australian rugby greats warn of the damage his potential departure could have on their code.

Cooper's professional future remained up in the air, the usually Twitter-happy five-eighth going to ground as  speculation swirled around him.

The 24-year-old was reportedly set to quit Australian rugby to either continue playing overseas, switch to rugby league or possibly even turn to boxing.

The disillusioned playmaker's manager Khoder Nasser said on  Monday Cooper would hold a press conference next week in the wake  of being offered a downgraded, incentive-based contract by the  Australian Rugby Union.

''It's sad. We can't afford to throw away players of his calibre,'' Test legend Mark Ella told AAP.

Queensland coaching director Ewen McKenzie, one of Cooper's closest allies, remained hopeful that the 38-Test star would still be with the Reds in 2013.

McKenzie also conceded it would be a hammer blow to the Reds if  Cooper did walk away.

''We've done massive things in the past three years in terms of  growing the support base, the membership base and finding ways to  connect the rugby community to the game and create some  positivity,'' said McKenzie.

''Now he's been a major part of that - not the only person - but our rugby kids need to have heroes and they attach themselves to  different people and Quade's certainly one of them.

''You only have to come to an open training session and you'll  see how many kids flock to him.

''He has that pulling power, which is important because we're in  a hot competition with other codes.''

Despite the controversies he's stirred, Cooper has more than 600,000 Twitter followers and was voted runner-up as the fans' most  popular player at this year's ARU awards.

NSW State of Origin coach Laurie Daley lauded Cooper's Benji Marshall-like talents.

Daley said Cooper would ''most definitely'' make it in rugby league should he make the switch to the NRL.

''He's very talented. I'm sure there'd be a few parties  interested in his services,'' Daley said.

''I suppose he's a bit like Benji in terms of when he's got the  ball in his hands he can make the opposition defence stop and it  seems as though he's got plenty of time and ability.

''He has certainly, from what I've seen, got the skills to be  capable of playing NRL.''

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While McKenzie chuckled at the prospect of Cooper seriously  pursuing a boxing career, he was reluctant to speculate on his next  move.

''He's in negotiations with the ARU and we're not involved in  those negotiations,'' he said.

''The frustration has been that we (Queensland) 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.

''He's given us his word ... I've never felt that he was going to  do anything other than play for the Reds.

''If something has changed, it would be disappointing but it's  been beyond our control if that's the case.''

The ARU's revised offer to Cooper doesn't even place the 2011  Super Rugby Player of the Year among the top 30 in Australia.

But McKenzie didn't wish to buy into the debate over Cooper's worth.

''I'm biased,'' he said.

''I think a lot of people would have seen that in the right environment he can really do things.''

Cooper's Reds and Wallabies halves partner Will Genia agreed ''he would be a massive loss''.

''But I am a close friend and I want to see him happy and for him to feel that he is respected and getting treated fairly,'' Genia said.

''That's not to say he is not being treated fairly ... I would love for him to stay, no doubt.

''I love playing with him, there's no other No.10 I enjoy playing  with and there's no other guy I love having in my team more.''

- AAP

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