The soap opera that is Quade Cooper’s career closed the day on another cliff hanger as the mercurial fly-half looks set to reject a meager incentive based contract offered by the Australian rugby Union (ARU). In addition to speculation as to where Cooper will go, the expected walkout is sure to stir up plenty tension between Queensland Rugby, to whom Quade is contracted to play with next year, and the ARU.
To any young player focused on developing their brand and maximising their marketing potential, take note. Where James O’Conner and Sonny Bill Williams have come out in front after putting their careers on the line with one year deals, Cooper’s gamble has come up pretty short. In the the lead up to Cooper’s one year agreement last year, he was in high demand from overseas rugby, the the NRL, and considered a top priority within the ARU and his deal reflected as much. A two year deal would have reflected a similar appreciation for his services, as would a 3 year – a five year deal, while tying him to the ARU for half a decade, would have set Cooper up for life. What a difference a year makes with Cooper’s disappointing World Cup punctuated by a serious knee injury from which he has failed to recapture his best form and consequently publicly fell-out with the Wallaby hierarchy after claiming that there was a ‘toxic’ atmosphere within the team.
Cooper’s next career move, a dip of the toe into the boxing world with a proposed fight on Sonny Bill’s undercard, has a hint of genius about it. Quade’s manager, Khoder ‘one yeah deal’ Nasser has copped his share of shade for encouraging his players to ignore notions of loyalty in pursuit of the big bucks but the guy is clearly a shrewd businessman.
Regardless of the quality of Cooper’s boxing ability, the quality of his opponent, and the quality of the bout, the fight will drum up plenty of publicity and interest and $$$. Just as many fans want to see the divisive star cop repeated blows to the face as those who want to see him succeed in the ring. Essentially the fight, which would not go ahead if he was contracted to the ARU, will cushion any financial blow Quade cops when he signs his next contract. While the fight is yet to be confirmed, Cooper let his twitter do the talking after the boxing rumors first began to circulate.
So where to now for Quade Cooper? In the wake of his anti-Wallaby tirade we took a look at the 5 jobs Quade Cooper can do when his ARU deal falls through and they are just as relevant now was they were a month ago so it’s not like the beleaguered star is without options. He also has overseas rugby, be it French, Japanese, or in England, with a stint abroad likely to be his most lucrative option. Otherwise there is the NRL but as far as the papers are concerned, no NRL clubs actually give a toss after the Cooper was branded injury prone, inconsistent, a defensive liability, and a detriment to team harmony. When you put it like that…
On League fan bang up for a Quade-conversion is former Newcastle Knights star Matthew Johns who pushed Cooper’s case hard on Triple M this morning “I think that Quade will look to do a deal almost identical to Sonny Bill Williams, they’re under the same management” said Johns.
“There is a couple of clubs that I think would benefit from Quade Cooper – The Dragons, The Penrith Panthers, The Broncos and I think the Wests Tigers as well. Quade Cooper would be a sensation in Rugby League, the game of Rugby Union has evolved away from his strengths.”
The final option for Quade is to suck it up and stick it out with the ARU. Cooper is contracted Reds for the next three years but the kicker is, in order to gain clearance from the ARU to play with the Reds, he has to sign an ARU contract. And the offer on the table at present is rookie-esque at best leading many within the Reds to question whether the offensive offer is just a ploy to drive Cooper from the game. As The Australian pointed out, despite his clashes with ARU hierarchy, Cooper has remained one of the games most popular players. With all the off-field dramas and the fact that he missed most of the season through injury, Cooper was still a finalist in the Peoples Choice award at the annual John Eales awards dinner.
In a year where the Wallabies attacking stats have taken a nosedive and they are playing as much scrappy, inconsistent, and one-dimensional rugby as ever, does the ARU need to risk alienating more fans by pushing a fan favorite from the game. Injury robbed Cooper of the opportunity to back up his sublime, pre-World Cup, 2011. At 24, Cooper’s best years are still to come. If you need a reminder as to why Cooper was once the shining light of Australian rugby check out these:
And maybe ignore this one…
Picture by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images