Quade Cooper will hold a press conference in Brisbane next Monday to outline his reasons for quitting rugby union in Australia as a number of leading NRL figures declared he would be a welcome addition to the code.
Cooper is expected to box on the undercard of Sonny Bill Williams' rescheduled fight against South African heavyweight Francois Botha in February and the Sydney Roosters star recruit has made no secret of the fact he would like to play alongside the Wallabies playmaker next season.
The pair spent Tuesday together, attending a movie and having dinner at Pinocchio's restaurant at Randwick. However, Roosters officials said the pair would have to wait as they could not accommodate Cooper next year and few other NRL clubs have room in the salary cap to add a big name signing to their roster at this late stage.
Instead, Cooper's most likely option next year may be a move to France, where up to four clubs are believed to be interested in his services after the ARU indicated they no longer wanted him in the game by offering him a mere incentive contract that he considers to be insulting.
While Cooper has agreed to a three-year deal with Queensland Reds, that was contingent on him receiving an ARU top-up. After withdrawing a previous offer, ARU chairman Michael Hawker passed on a revised deal that provided for match payments only for test appearances with the Wallabies.
Cooper received the offer on November 8 - a week after he was handed a record $60,000 fine ($20,000 of which was suspended) and a suspended three-match ban for criticising the code and the atmosphere in the Wallabies' camp under coach Robbie Deans.
He has not yet responded to the offer but has told friends he sees no future for himself in Australian rugby union and is considering his options.
After growing up playing league alongside Sydney Roosters centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Cooper has long held an ambition to play in the NRL and he was meant to come to Australia with the Kiwi international to trial with clubs while living in a backpacker hostel.
Despite accepting a rugby union scholarship after moving to Brisbane with his family, Cooper almost joined Melbourne in 2008 and the man who tried to sign him then, Sydney Roosters recruitment manager Peter O'Sullivan, still believes he would succeed in the NRL.
''We won't be going down that path but I am sure he would make a decent impression because he is a quality athlete,'' O'Sullivan said.
''He has got a great range of skills so I have no doubt he would be a good player. It would probably take him a little while to adapt to the NRL and from what I see he would be a natural league fullback.''
NSW Origin coach Laurie Daley also believes Cooper would ''most definitely'' make it in rugby league and compared him to Wests Tigers superstar Benji Marshall.
''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.''
St George Illawarra and Gold Coast are the two clubs most likely to be able to accommodate Cooper under the salary cap but both said they were not intending to pursue him for next season.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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