Quade Cooper says he wants to eliminate any ‘what if?’ regrets in his rugby career as discussions between the Reds and the Rebels continue to progress over the exiled Queensland star.
Cooper has indicated privately he is open to a Rebels move but there are still two hurdles which must be cleared if he is to return to the Super Rugby stage in 2019.
It is understood the Rebels are still in negotiations with the Reds over the proportion of Cooper’s salary that will transfer to their books.
Just how much of his $650,000 per year deal shifts to Melbourne’s wages bill could prove the factor that determines whether the enigmatic playmaker heads south to join Will Genia in the halves.
That’s because the second hurdle which must be cleared relates to Melbourne’s salary cap.
With the reduction of Australia’s Super Rugby teams to just four this year, the salary cap was temporarily lifted to allow the distribution of former Force players to the remaining four clubs.
That lenience will not exist in 2019 and the acquisition of Matt Toomua alongside a host of those ex-Force stars and rumours of Cooper and Reds teammate James Slipper being added to the Rebels have raised many onlookers’ eyebrows when it comes to the cap.
Melbourne must show they will be able to afford Cooper and any other signings and still fall under the salary cap before Rugby Australia will give the deal the tick of approval.
The Rebels are confident they will be under the cap in 2019.
Cooper has been keeping his cards close to his chest publicly all season and while the 30-year-old was still coy about his next move speaking after Brisbane City’s win over the Rays on Saturday, he said he didn’t want to have any regrets down the track.
“I think being present is a great mentality to have in any walk of life and I think if you can take that approach to day-to-day life, enjoy your time when you’re at home with your family, enjoy that time when you’re on the training paddock with your team, enjoy that time when you’re out on the field playing games, because we can’t play this beautiful game forever,” he said.
“When it comes to that point (of retiring) if you can look back and enjoy that time rather than go ‘what if?’ or anything like that, then no one can take anything away from you.
“The only future I’m looking ahead to is next week playing in Adelaide against Melbourne.
“Looking forward to that, preparing with the boys and continuing to enjoy the NRC.”
This view is somewhat of a shift from Cooper who had said for much of the year that he determined to stay in Queensland and persist in club rugby with Souths for the final season of his current contract.
Signing Cooper would be a coup for Melbourne, who have lacked a consistent 10 in recent seasons, but Wallabies coach Michael Cheika wasn’t giving much away when asked whether the former Reds star would be in line for national honours.
“Always … every player is in Australia,” Cheika said when asked whether Cooper would be considered for a return to the Wallabies.
“If he gets an opportunity to play 100 per cent we’d be looking at him.
“We’ve seen some good things, seen some other things that you’d like improved. The games have been pretty high scoring, so it’s been pretty much focused on attack.
“Let’s see how they pan out from there.”
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