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Cooper to sit up and take notice, says Reds boss

Quade Cooper ... has had a reality check, according to the Reds chief executive, Jim Carmichael.

Quade Cooper ... has had a reality check, according to the Reds chief executive, Jim Carmichael. Photo: Getty Images

OVER a coffee in Brisbane in late September, Quade Cooper asked Reds chief executive Jim Carmichael if there might be room at Ballymore for Sonny Bill Williams.

Cooper had tweeted, a day or so earlier, that he ''wanted to play with'' his close friend Williams, who was making his way from New Zealand rugby to NRL club Sydney Roosters.

The pair agreed it was a great idea that had little chance of coming to fruition. But the damage was done. The tweet was widely perceived and reported as an indication the Reds' five-eighth was about to jump ship himself. He had signed a three-year deal with the Reds in June but was haggling over the fine detail in his contract with the ARU.

In the coming days, the Williams comment formed part of a large and destructive snowball that careered out of Cooper's control with claims of a ''toxic'' team culture and a refusal to don the Wallabies jersey, before juddering to a halt this week with a $40,000 fine and a two-year good behaviour bond.

It was six weeks that Cooper will never forget. After a draining four-hour hearing in the presence of seven suits, the 24-year-old offered a quiet but sincere public acknowledgement of his failings. He does not think he is wrong, but he knows he went too far.

''I think there was a bit of a reality check for Quade that we can have an opinion but it doesn't necessarily mean that everything will change the way that we want it to change,'' Carmichael said on Thursday.

''There was an enormous amount of Quade learning that he had to accept that [the issues are] complex, and we need to work together on that. And I genuinely believe he will. He sees that he needs to be as positive an influence around the Wallabies as he is with Queensland.''

Whether or not he will get that opportunity remains to be seen. The ARU is yet to retable its contract offer with Cooper after withdrawing it in September. Cooper's knee injury has proved a far greater challenge than he expected. And there are relationships to mend in the Wallabies camp.

''If Quadey gets back with the Wallabies and gets picked by the coaches he would have earned it,'' erstwhile Wallabies captain David Pocock said on Thursday. ''If you earn your place in the jersey, the boys will play with you.''

Even the Queensland-based Wallabies were hurt by Cooper's public pronouncements. Opinions are one thing, but disregard for the gold jersey - perceived or real - crosses the line.

''I can't speak for those in the national team that I don't have a direct relationship with through Queensland,'' Carmichael said.

''But more important than whether I think there's work to be done, Quade - from when this first started - has put a lot of time into trying to explain to his teammates how he feels, and I'm pleased to say his teammates very much respect him. Quade, I have no doubt, will put all the time and effort that's needed to restore any faith or trust that may have been breached.''

At the height of the drama, Carmichael was calling his injured playmaker in for ''coffee'' up to three times a week. He and coach Ewen McKenzie take their roles as mentors seriously, to say the least.

There is a theory going around Super Rugby teams that if the Wallabies put half as much effort into player guidance and welfare, especially during extended injury lay-offs, many of the behavioural issues that cropped up this season might have been nipped in the bud.

The ARU, as well as many a rugby fan, would be entitled to wonder, on the basis of that theory, whether players are men or children in a creche. How many times is a Quade Cooper entitled to the benefit of the doubt, or a renewal of trust from a weary supporter?

''Quade is very, very conscious of how serious it was to speak out in a very inappropriate way,'' Carmichael said. ''I very much think that the penalty was a very just penalty considering the seriousness of the matter. But I think what mattered as much to Quade was how much he'd let his game down and himself down and all the people that are in the game. I genuinely believe that is weighing more heavily on his mind than the fines and suspension.''

Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR 36 vs AUS 40 Report Stats
USA 6 vs NZL 74 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 24 vs SAM 13 Report Stats
ENG 21 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
WAL 28 vs AUS 33 Report Stats
FRA 40 vs FJI 14 Report Stats
IRE 29 vs RSA 15 Report Stats
SCO 41 vs ARG 31 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 18 vs ARG 20 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs RSA 31 Report Stats
WAL 17 vs FJI 13 Report Stats
SCO 16 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
FRA 29 vs AUS 26 Report Stats
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE 49 vs GEO 7 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 6 vs RSA 22 Report Stats
SCO 37 vs TGA 12 Report Stats
IRE 26 vs AUS 23 Report Stats
WAL 16 vs NZL 34 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs SAM 9 Report Stats
FRA 13 vs ARG 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG 26 vs AUS 17 Report Stats
WAL 12 vs RSA 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
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