His career’s gone Souths but Quade’s still class
QUADE Cooper on Saturday night made his much-awaited comeback at a suburban club ground in Brisbane that was 12,300km away from the Queensland Reds team he would love to be playing with in Buenos Aires on Sunday.
Wallabies great David Campese is still dumbstruck there is no spot for the 70-Test fly half in the Reds team or any of Australia's four Super Rugby teams because the Melbourne Rebels waved off a chance to snap him up.
It's not because you have to find a contracted $700,000-a-year footballer a home but because his talent deserves it, Campese said.
Cooper gave plenty of glimpses why world rugby has not seen the last of him on the big stage with a hand in three of Souths' four tries in a 26-14 victory.
The crowd of around 400 at Chipsy Wood Oval all knew who was wearing the all black No. 10 jersey when Cooper, as captain, led out the Magpies for their final pre-season trial against Norths.
The occasion was not lost on his opponents either, with replacement Norths halfback Freddy Kamen asking Cooper to pose for a photo after full-time.
"That's pretty cool. He's one of my heroes as a player and I never thought I'd get the chance to play club footy against him," Kamen said.
It was a throwback to the day when winger George Tagicakibau gleefully grabbed a snap with Wallabies great John Eales on the rare day they were Brothers teammates in the late 1990s.
Cooper was keeping his thoughts to himself and only offered: "Enjoyed it ... had a good time."
It looked like it too.
Midway through the first half he took on the defence and popped a ball when on his back to send over inside centre Teti Tela, the Reds squad utility who thrived on Cooper's wavelength all game.
On the stroke of halftime, there was a double-pump pass to a hole that Tela hit for a second try and Cooper finished proceedings with a delicate kick dabbed to the corner for winger Jayden Ngamanu's try.
Cooper looked fit and sharp after his private off-season training and played the full 80 minutes in his first game for five months since the National Rugby Championship with Brisbane City.
Cooper is throwing himself into his club role without ego. When the Souths boys gathered at Tallebudgera for a pre-season camp, it was Cooper who shouted drinks for all his teammates on the Gold Coast.