Quade Cooper knows how to turn a game in his favour. While explaining away one unwanted headline, he gave Queensland rugby fans the news they had been craving all season.
After toying with a return to his schoolboy code of rugby league, Cooper revealed just hours before Australia played Wales last night that he had signed a new three-year deal with the Reds, keeping him at Ballymore until the end of 2015.
Pub controversy? What pub controversy?
The star five-eighth had been connected with clubs all over the planet since he extended his stay with the Reds for just one season last year. Everyone was throwing a dart at his final destination.
At various stages, he was packing his bags for Parramatta, the Sydney Roosters, the Western Force, Melbourne Rebels and rugby sides in Japan and Europe. Ice hockey might have been an option if he had delayed his decision any longer.
Suggestions he was going to pick a winner out of the hat six weeks ago were wide of the mark and he made his move late yesterday, telling Fox Sports that he would remain at Ballymore and giving Ewen McKenzie another big red tick in the recruiting box.
Once a stop-off point until a transfer to a decent team had been arranged, the Reds are now holding on to their biggest names.
Will Genia, sublime in the 27-19 win over Wales last night and Digby Ioane have both inked new deals. Only Scott Higginbotham (Rebels) slipped through the net.
Cooper said he was yet to finalise the ARU component of his deal but he was happy at Ballymore, despite a genuine interest in rugby league. The decision of close friend Genia to spurn huge dollars from the Force can only have helped his cause.
“I was quite interested in it and likewise my management,” he told Fox.
“But I felt that staying with the Reds was the right thing for me to do at this point in time and we’ll just organise sorting out the ARU side of it. But I’m really enjoying rugby and I think we’ve got a very bright future here.
“I’m just thrilled to have my future settled for the next three years and hopefully all the rest will be put behind me, get out and play some good footy.”
Cooper’s decision to stay in Queensland is a huge win for the Reds and the ARU. He has his moments off the field but plays with the kind of unpredictability and unwavering confidence that brings fans through the gates.
His signature – combined with Genia, Ioane, James Horwill and developing stars like Liam Gill – mean the Reds are going to remain competitive for the forseeable future. For a franchise back from the brink, it was always vital to try to retain the core of the championship side.
And then there is the rivalry with the New Zealanders and Richie McCaw. All Blacks fans have the super power of holding a grudge and Cooper is almost universily despised across the ditch after his battles with their beloved flanker.
He gives as good as he gets and as a result, any Wallaby Test he plays against the men in black has become compulsory viewing. It’s unlikely that fuse will be doused anytime soon.
Cooper also shed extra light on the incident involving Kurtley Beale and bouncer outside of The Victory Hotel in the early hours of Thursday morning. Police have filed no charges as yet.
Cooper said he and Beale, both injured and unavailable for Wallaby selection, were “just out doing what young blokes do” before they became involved in an alleged incident with security staff.
“We were out playing a bit of pool and things have escalated from there,” told Fox Sports.
“There’s not much that I can comment about on that subject. But I’m sure it will all come out over the next few days. We were just out doing what young blokes do. I’m sure it will all come out soon.”
Cooper, who has been involved in several previous off-field controversies, added: “Rumours are always going to be out there, whether it be about us playing, whether it be about us out and about.
“Those are things that we can’t change and that’s the life that we live in. We’ve got to just get on with the job at hand and train hard and hopefully play some good footy.”