I think he is getting a much better balance than when he was playing six or eight months ago
Enigmatic Wallaby flyhalf Quade Cooper has been given rich praise for his role in the Reds' late revival in the 2012 Super Rugby season.
The Brisbane-based franchise - following a mid-season slump that saw them suffer five defeats in a seven-match stretch - continue their late charge towards the Super Rugby play-offs with a gutsy 19-13 victory over the Highlanders on Friday.
The Highlanders pressured the Reds at the breakdown throughout the match, but Cooper showed flashes of his 2011 championship-winning best as he linked with scrumhalf Will Genia to get his side on the front foot.
Coach Ewen McKenzie said he was pleased with the way Cooper has recovered from off-season knee surgery and was confident his playmaking No.10 was returning to his best.
"He hasn't played a lot of football this year but I think he is doing good things out there," McKenzie said.
"I think he is getting a much better balance than when he was playing six or eight months ago.
"That's the maturing of the guy and he has had a lot of time to watch. He is an analytical guy about the game and he does study it and think about it.
"We saw some flashes there of his x-factor and we saw some good quality game management."
Cooper is one of the most exciting, yet polarising figures in the game.
The talented flyhalf played an integral role in the Reds 2011 Super Rugby Championship, and was the Wallabies first-choice flyhalf at the 2011 World Cup before suffering a knee injury in the third-place play-off.
He missed most of the early stages of Super Rugby this year and returned in May - just before the June internationals.
Following on from a breakthrough 2010 Super Rugby season, Cooper continued to delight Reds fans in 2011 - finishing the season with a record personal tally of 228 points which obliterated the Reds previous best mark - 171 point effort also set by Cooper just a year earlier.
Queensland fans confirmed Cooper's popularity in the Sunshine State and recognised his contribution to their premiership-winning season by voting him the winner of the People's Choice Award at the 2011 Reds Gala.
He played in every match during the Reds' Super Rugby title campaign, bringing up his 50th cap for Queensland in Round One against the Western Force, before playing game number 50 in Super Rugby the following week against the Waratahs in Sydney.
Quade first made his debut for the Reds in 2007 at the age of 18 in just his first year out of school.
A naturally gifted player with a freakishly deceptive step, the exciting New Zealand-born product had a tough initiation in 2007 when asked to make the step up from schoolboy Rugby to Super 14 level, but showed the benefit of experience as he quickly developed in 2008 and 2009.