Quade Cooper is as good as gone from Australian rugby after the Queensland Rugby Union exited talks with his management over keeping him in Reds colours.
The enigmatic Wallabies five-eighth is now poised to move to France after the World Cup and join European club heavyweights Toulon on a two-year deal, after 107 games and 10 seasons with Queensland.
Talks between the QRU, the Australian Rugby Union and Cooper’s manager Khoder Nasser reached a point of exhaustion and a Reds media release said “events over the last few weeks” prompted the organisation to take their offer off the table.
“Quade has had the unwavering support of Queensland Rugby for many years and although he has consistently indicated his preference to stay with Queensland and both the QRU and ARU have worked tirelessly in an attempt to accommodate the requirements of his management, the QRU has been disappointed in a number of factors throughout this drawn-out negotiation process, including his recent trip to France and what we believe are unrealistic expectations made by his management,” QRU chief executive Jim Carmichael said.
“QRU has been flexible in its attempts to retain Quade, offering significant remuneration and being understanding of his boxing ambitions and supportive in relation to the possibility of sabbatical options.
“We have come to the difficult decision that the investment we have made previously and were prepared to continue to make has not been recognised, particularly when taking into account our commitment to him over a very long period of time.
“As a consequence, we are no longer prepared to be involved in any further discussions as this will leave the organisation further exposed.
“It goes without saying that Quade leaves us with our gratitude for his time with the Reds and has only our best wishes and thanks as he enters a new chapter in his career.”
The Reds statement confirmed the widespread belief that Cooper signed a letter of agreement with Toulon when he visited the club in April but upon his return, the club said the 27-year-old was genuine in his desire to stay.
But for that to happen, the French club reportedly required a six-figure sum to release him.
Cooper has played 53 Tests but needs to add seven more before the end of the World Cup to qualify for the ARU’s new Wallabies eligibility rules and allow his international career to continue while playing for Toulon.
Cooper’s loss is a huge blow for the Reds, not only in a football sense but in pure marketability.
He has been the face of the franchise for years but his departure, together with the recent farewells of club greats James Horwill and Will Genia, signals a true changing of the guard at Ballymore.
It also means a likely search for a marquee replacement at No.10 from overseas, with rookies Jake McIntyre and Duncan Paia’aua their only back-ups in the key playmaking position.
Only last week, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said based on his own personal dealings with Cooper, he felt like the off-contract star wanted to stay in Australia beyond the World Cup.