Year long "sabbatical" a blessing: Cooper

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

Fresh, fit and ready to fire after a year long "sabbatical" from Super Rugby, Quade Cooper has reported at his first day of Rebels training in top notch nick.

The star flyhalf has spent 2018 running the show for his beloved Souths Magpies and Brisbane City, having been banished from the Reds setup by coach Brad Thorn.

The time away from the game has been a blessing in disguise on two fronts for the 30-year-old.

Firstly, his body is feeling as sharp as it has in years.

"Physically it's been great, being able to focus on strength," he told reporters in Melbourne on Monday.

"Physically I have become stronger and being able to rest your body and not do so much contact work day in and day out... it has basically been a sabbatical."

But secondly - and perhaps most importantly - being out of the "system" has refreshed Cooper on the mental front.

Cooper spent the season playing for Souths in Queensland Premier Rugby. Photo: QRU Media/Brendan Hertel"Mentally it has probably been the best thing for me, being out of the system," he said.

"Sometimes being out of the system can overcrowd your thinking.

"So to be able to be open minded and learn different ways, learn from different people and different voices, that's probably been the biggest thing for me."

The star flyhalf met the majority of his new teammates for the very first time at the Melbourne's AAMI Park headquarters on Monday and was already taking on a vocal role during the side's afternoon training session.

He intends to build upon that leadership framework in the coming weeks.

"From a learning aspect... I hope I can be a bit of a mentor," he said.

"Hard work, leadership qualities, things like that.

"I hope I can just lead by example."

The Rebels will be hoping Cooper can do exactly that.

Cooper's career in Queensland is over. Photo: Getty ImagesOn paper they have assembled Australia's best Super Rugby roster.

Games of rugby aren't won on paper, however, and Cooper was quick to acknowledge as much.

"I think every team on paper at this time of year is a strong team," he said.

"Everyone is out here working hard, getting fitter, getting stronger, but we just need to continue to focus on us.

"Hopefully when we get to the games all the work we have done is just a little bit better than the rest of the teams."

Cooper doesn't expect win games of rugby on paper and neither does his coach, Dave Wessels.

The Rebels boss was instrumental in the push to bring Cooper south and the pair are clearly on the same page already.

"I have a lot of respect for him to take that time out, come up, get to know me as a person," Cooper said.

"After speaking to him this opportunity (came up) and I am very grateful to be down here.

"I am looking forward to just working hard with these guys and hopefully continuing to getting better and the team getting better."