EXCLUSIVE: Quade Cooper on the Rebels, his Wallabies future and that Thorn tweet

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

While there's clearly no love lost between Quade Cooper and Brad Thorn, the star flyhalf says he still loves the Reds and social media posts upon departure from the club were not pot shots at his former coach.

In an exclusive interview with RUGBY.com.au, Cooper also revealed his desire to return to Wallaby gold in 2019 as the national side searches for answers in playmaking slots ahead of a World Cup year.

Cooper, 30, has joined the Melbourne Rebels and took his first steps with the club last week in pre-season training.

It required a release from his Reds contract but that was a formality given Thorn had contentiously informed the 70-cap Wallaby he was not required for Super Rugby duty last year.

Cooper played the year with Souths in Brisbane club rugby, and Brisbane City in the NRC.

When a deal was struck with the Rebels, Cooper announced his move on social media by posting on a picture of himself fending Thorn during a Bledisloe Cup match with the message: "Sometimes you are forced out of the place you love but thank god there’s more than one place that loves me."

While Cooper would not be drawn on his relationship with Thorn, he said the message was misinterpreted and instead professed his love for a club he clearly still holds close to his heart.

"That was different to what you guys made it out to be," Cooper said.

"That was a situation in a place that I love and I've been there a long time.

"I gave a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of blood and a lot of sweat to that team and organisation.

"I was forced into that situation and I just stated the facts.

"There is no love lost there, you know? I still hold that place very dear to me, but the future is here."

Asked about his emotional reaction upon being told by Thorn he was not part of Queensland's future plans, Cooper said he simply took a "control the controllable" approach.

"That's a question for him," Cooper said.

"It was a situation which was forced upon me so whether you are happy or unhappy... it was out of my hands.

"I was happy to be a part of a team and a club like Souths who gave a lot of time and a lot of support to me in the past.

"I was very proud to be a part of that.

"The other situation was forced upon me and that's something for (Thorn) to answer for."

Some players, given the circumstances, would have languished.

Cooper took Thorn's cold shoulder as a challenge.

Aspiring to play his way back in, he spent the past 12 months playing for his beloved Souths, Brisbane City and, coincidentally, watching plenty of Melbourne Rebels football.

And while Cooper couldn't pinpoint the moment he decided he wanted to return to Super Rugby elsewhere - having rejected approaches from both the Rebels and Brumbies earlier this year - those close to the star playmaker have always harboured a belief his competitive drive would drag him back to the big stage.

"I had the opportunity to speak with Dave Wessels and he took time out of his schedule to come up to Brisbane and get to know me," Cooper said.

"That was, for me, a turning point.

"Speaking to a guy like that who had enough respect for me to sit down and talk to me and talk about his plans moving forward and to see me as a part of that... I wanted to get back involved and repay him as well for the respect and time he gave to me."

Wessels said he was convinced about Cooper's character when, after the pair had chatted for several hours in Brisbane, the player insisted he give him a lift to the airport.

Lining up alongside mate and 100 Test halfback Will Genia certainly made the decision easier, too.

"We've got some really good memories together - some of the best memories - and in 2011 when we were able to hold that trophy up... it's a memory that can never be taken away from you," Cooper said.

"We will never forget about it and that mateship that we have no matter where we end up will always be there.

"It's great to be able to share those memories and hopefully we can make some more as well."

If Cooper has his way those fresh memories will be made in both Rebels and Wallabies colours.

While he stopped short of declaring himself the man the Wallabies need to reverse their current fortunes, Cooper said he wouldn't be playing if he didn't think he was capable of delivering under the brightest lights of all.

"Every player that is playing the game... whether that be Super Rugby, grass roots, you're at school, the ambition is to represent your country," he said.

"I have been fortunate enough to do that 70 plus times so I wouldn't be playing the game if I didn't want to be the best that I could be.

"Whether that eventuates down the track... who knows.

"All I know is that I have signed here and that my coach has a lot of faith in me.

"I have to work hard to do the best I can and put my best foot forward for this team.

"If things eventuate then that's great.

"If not, I know that I have done everything I can in my power and that situation is out of my hand."

While he harbours the ambition of adding to his 70 Tests, Cooper will not allow himself to dream. Playing well and winning games of Super Rugby remain his top priority.

 If 2018 has taught him anything it's that what will be, will be.

"It's a huge honour to be able to play one (Test)," he said.

"I am Wallaby number 830.

"That's not really that many when you think about a lifetime and how long the Wallabies have been around for.

"To just throw out that... that I am going to play another 30 odd games... I'm definitely not thinking that far ahead.

"But I will do the best that I can here, get my first cap for Melbourne and then we will go from there.

"If the work that I put in here is enough then who knows... I might be fortunate enough to add to those caps."