Cooper fall-out escalating

Wed, 21 Nov 2012 08:06
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The fall-out over Quade Cooper's reported plans to walk out on the Australian Rugby Union escalated on Wednesday.

The fall-out over Quade Cooper's reported plans to walk out on the Australian Rugby Union escalated on Wednesday.

Amidst calls from former Wallaby mentor Bob Dwyer that the ARU should not "throw the baby [Cooper] out with the bath water", the Australian union hit back with statements of their own.

ARU High Performance Manager David Nucifora rejected claims that Cooper was offered a 'rookie' contract and said efforts to contact the playmaker this week were rebuffed.

Cooper has made no formal declaration of his intent since saying publicly that he was looking forward to "having a big year" with the Reds and the Wallabies after his disciplinary hearing three weeks ago.

The mercurial player will reportedly hold a press conference on Monday to announce his plans for the future.

However, numerous media reports suggested Cooper was poised to walk out on Rugby Union and pursue a career in Rugby League or boxing.

This was followed by claims in the media that the ARU offered him an "insulting" incentive-only contract.

Nucifora, who is travelling with the Wallabies around Europe, rejected claims the ARU had tabled a "meagre" offer, in effect trying to drive him out of the sport.

"Like any player's contract I'm not going to go into what it is or how it's put together, but it's a substantial amount of money that I think any player would be happy to accept, to be honest," he said.

"I see this thing about a 'rookie' contract. There's no rookies in Australian rugby that earn that sort of money. It's a substantial contract, it's not a rookie contract."

It is understood the ARU structures offers it makes to Test players in a way that would give Cooper the ability to earn a large top-up if he played a certain number of Tests - not, as has been claimed, a match-by-match model.

Nucifora said the ARU tried to contact Cooper's management after seeing reports this week the injured five-eighth was going to walk away from rugby.

"Our contracting manager [Matt Carroll] has tried to speak directly to his agent without any success," Nucifora said.

"Obviously on the back of what came out Monday night we've tried to make contact, with little joy and no luck, about wanting to enter into a discussion. Without dialogue it's pretty difficult to go anywhere."

Reds boss Rod McCall is planning talks with ARU chairman Michael Hawker, who will return from London on Thursday.

"All I can do is ask for them to reconsider it [the ARU contract offer]," McCall said.

Dwyer is adamant the ARU should do "everything they can" to retain the services of Cooper.

"There is a perception that he has been punished twice for one crime which is not right," Dwyer said.

Dwyer conceded Cooper polarised fans but hoped the ARU would fight to retain a player "with qualities that rarely come around".

"There are a lot of rugby fans that are so disappointed with what Quade said that they would think he is better off going," he said.

"I didn't like what he did either.

"But I would like us to do all we can to help him not do it again, not throw him out with the dishwater."

Cooper was last month fined $40,000 for a series of criticisms he made of the Wallabies and the ARU, which involved claims the Test team environment was "toxic" and "destroying" him as a person and as a player.

Nucifora said the ARU considered the matter water under the bridge and wanted Cooper to stay in the sport.

"I think the fact that there's an offer being given to Quade is enough to suggest that people have moved on and are ready to rebuild things," he said.

"But again we can't force him to accept any offer, we can't force him to come and speak to us. The ball is totally in his court to make a decision. You really can't do much more than that to be honest."

Dwyer - whose record of 67 Tests as Wallabies coach was surpassed by Robbie Deans recently - said Cooper should prove a point to the ARU rather than walk away.

"I would be thinking `I will prove to these blokes I am worth much more than that'," he said.

"You don't want him to go. But the game is bigger than any one player - we will get over it."

Sources: Sydney Morning Herald & AAP

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