Quade ‘$800k’ Cooper steps out in club rugby
NOT only is Quade Cooper in full training with the Souths club in Brisbane preparing to earn his annual $800,000 salary playing club rugby from April, but he is helping to coach the team as well.
Having been released from the Queensland Reds' squad, but still signed to the ARU for another two years on his massive wage, Cooper has resisted the urge to move overseas and will continue earning his guaranteed money turning out in the Premier Rugby competition.
The Wallabies star with 70 Tests will play alongside labourers and factory workers in a team coached by former Super Rugby and NRL player Elia Tuqiri, who is assisted by Wallabies legend Toutai Kefu.
"Quade's obviously got more knowledge than me as a young coach, it's more getting him involved with the coaching as well," Tuqiri said.
"Utilising his experience, we bounce things off him, 'What do you think of this situation?' he's been great, he's been giving me advice around trying this or that, he has been helping me as a coach.
"It's a win-win for everyone.
"I believe he still has aspirations to play at a higher level, so even if he plays one game for us I think it's great for the club.
"To have someone of his calibre playing club rugby week in, week out, and it's free to come and watch club rugby here, we'll see a massive crowd.
"It's only good exposure for club rugby and most likely increase participation at grassroots.
"We're very excited that he's available to play for us, to have him at your doorstep is a dream.
"The first session he came down, the boys' eyes just lit up. Guys are still buzzing to train alongside him.
"Like any superstar, he just brings everyone's standards up."
On Thursday evening, Cooper practised passing and tackling drills with his club teammates in the picturesque surrounds of Chipsy Wood Oval in Albion.
"They're all working class, doing factory work, warehouses, labouring, we may have a couple of guys working in an office, the rest are doing the hard yakka out there in the hot sun," Tuqiri said of his players.
"They come straight here, they're all tired, but they're here because they love footy.
'They don't get paid for it, in fact they have to pay registration to play.
"We've created a lot of Wallabies in the past here at Souths; Tim Horan, Toutai Kefu, and to have someone like Quade back is great for the club.
"It started a long time ago with the inclusion of the Tongan community back in the Sione Mafi days [in the late 1970s], it was one of the first clubs that had Pacific Islanders.
"It's very inclusive, working class, we get guys from Ipswich and Logan, very down to earth guys."
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said he was uncomfortable with how Cooper had been dropped by Reds coach Brad Thorn.
"I'm not comfortable with it obviously but that's the way it is, Queensland make a decision and they're entitled to make that decision, so my challenge is to try to get him into a place where I can still have him as an option somewhere along the line to be selected," Cheika said.
"That's either got to be through him finding a way to play here or play somewhere else - he qualifies with the 60-cap rule so that's another option.
"But we'll talk with Queensland and see where we go.
"That would not be an easy thing for him to be dealing with. As a footballer it's not nice when a coach says 'We don't want you'.
"How he decides to react from that, now is the right time to say 'How are we going to deal with that?' We can't just sit around and hope we get an outcome, we've got to try to make something happen.
"Brad rang me when he made the decision ... they're the decisions you make and then you become accountable for those decisions."