Queensland and Wallabies great Andrew Slack says Quade Cooper is not yet lost to Australian rugby, but praised Reds coach Brad Thorn for making a difficult decision.
Overseas clubs have been sniffing around Cooper, who was told he wouldn’t be training with the Reds this preseason and wasn’t part of the starting plans next year, but he is yet to declare any move abroad.
Should he stay it’s likely the flyhalf will play the majority of the season for Souths, but Slack was adamant his Super Rugby career wasn’t quite done.
“He's still contracted and if Brad decides he wants him at some stage, at this stage he's there, he's just not training with the Reds, he's training with the club, but I think it shows what ticker Brad's got, in truth,” he said.
“(It’s) not an easy thing to do and not everybody agrees with it, but the coach is the boss and I think you can make all these big decisions but you've got to have the trust of the players in making them, you can't just make them for the sake of it and I think Brad's done that for sound reasons.
“I'm sure Quade understands as much as he'd be disappointed, but he's not cut adrift, he's just not training with them, see what unfolds.
“Brad's realistic enough to know that every team needs depth, so who knows what Quade will end up doing in 2018 but it's not all over yet.”
Rookie 10 Hamish Stewart clearly impressed Brad Thorn in the NRC season with Queensland Country, the 19-year-old the next in line for that playmaking role, but Slack said the youngster wouldn't be able to fly solo.
“He's (Stewart) a really solid player,” he said.
“The question I think Brad has suggested this on the back of the Quade decision is he's a young man and at 19, 20 being able to show up week in, week out for the full 80 minutes that's in the lap of the Gods to a degree,” he said.
“I think the foundation of what he's got, a great kicking game, sensible kid, good defender, all those other things and what he did in the 20s World Cup and Super XV's a different show, Super Rugby's a different show, but I think he's going to be very good, but he'll need back up and that'll be something that Brad will have to sort out.
“He's got Duncan Paia'aua, he's a good player and he can fiddle around there, so that's in his thoughts as well but I think most important thing is the coach is confident will the personnel he's got.
Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson all but ruled out a move to Sydney for Cooper, with Wallabies starter Bernard Foley and Queenslander Mack Mason in their flyhalf ranks.
“We are pretty full in terms of our list, pretty much done, so really comfortable with where we're at,” he said.