EXCLUSIVE: Rebels in talks to hand Cooper a Super lifeline

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

The Melbourne Rebels have launched a major push to sign Quade Cooper and long-time ally Will Genia couldn't be happier.

RUGBY.com.au can reveal negotiations between the Reds, Rebels and Cooper's management have been ongoing for almost two months and there is confidence a deal can be done in coming weeks.

The mercurial flyhalf has not been part of Reds coach Brad Thorn's plans all season and that will not change in 2019, as it's understood the Reds are open to any move which will clear Cooper's $650,000 per season salary from their books.

At the urging of coach Dave Wessels, Melbourne are keen to give Cooper a lifeline and re-unite him with Genia in the Rebels halves.

The Rebels are light on flyhalf talent and while they have signed Matt Toomua for 2019 he will not return to Australia until the back end of next season.Cooper has been out of favour at Ballymore in 2018. Photo: Getty ImagesCooper was insistent he wanted to stay in Brisbane and rejected a previous Rebels' approach last season.

But he is believed to be now open to a move, and there is also talk the Sunwolves have expressed interest.

The matter of how much of Cooper's current salary would be picked up by the Rebels also needs to be negotiated but Queensland are believed to be willing to strike a deal.

A move south would reunite Cooper with star Wallabies halfback Genia, with whom he won the 2011 Super Rugby title and played dozens of Tests.

Genia told RUGBY.com.au this week the 30-year-old Cooper is the missing piece in the puzzle to take Melbourne to the finals.

"He's a world class player," Genia said.

"To have someone like that in the playmaking role at the Rebels would be huge.

"That's probably our biggest missing piece.Cooper is likely to line up for Melbourne next season. Photo: Getty Images"Hodgey played 10 and played pretty well there but I think he's more of a centre.

"So to have someone in the team who has won a title before and has had that success would make a huge difference."

It's understood Wessels is a driving force in bringing the 70 Test flyhalf south and Genia backed his coach's call.

"We're a team that likes to play gain line and play flat and that's when Quade plays his best - when he has that freedom," Genia said.

"I know Dave is definitely keen on him and wanted to have a few conversations with him.

"Hopefully they can come to some sort of agreement."