How Cooper won over Rebels coach
IT WASN'T the full day Melbourne Rebels coach Dave Wessels spent in Brisbane earlier this year that convinced him to sign former Wallaby Quade Cooper.
Unused for a full season by the Queensland Reds, Cooper, who has 70 Wallabies caps but none since 2017, committed fully to club rugby in Brisbane and earned rave reviews.
There were lingering stories, however, about the one-time bad boy, so Wessels went to check him out.
That meeting gave the Rebels coach, who was a fan of Cooper's rugby, enough confidence he would be getting a player with plenty to offer on-field.
But when Cooper offered to drive Wessels to the airport after their chat, he knew he had a solid citizen as well.
Cooper will report for his first-day of pre-season training on Monday and Wessels is excited about what the club is getting.
"My feeling is a talent like him deserves to be playing at the top end of the game," Wessels said.
"Through a series of events he has ended up missing out on that. Part of that's on him, part of that's on some of the environments he's been in.
"The only person who is really going to change that now is him.
"If he's in the mind space to come and work hard, he's got the ability to be anything.
"What's been so refreshing in my conversations with Quade is his appetite to work hard over the next few months, which is what we expect of him."
Wessels said he had spoken to plenty of people about Cooper, including Rebels scrum-half Will Genia. The pair won a Super Rugby title together with the Reds in 2011.
Former coaches and other people in rugby also reached out to Wessels and none deterred him from adding Cooper to an already strong Rebels list.
"We run a very open team and I have spoken to a number of senior players who know him well to get their feedback, guys like Will Genia, and all those guys have spoken very positively about him," Wessels said.
"Over the past couple of months I have had some calls from people that have coached him and know him well, that have all been positive, and said we've got a real gem."
Despite a middling season for his team, Reds coach Brad Thorn refused to play Cooper, who was on a $600,000 contract.
The Rebels, and Cooper, will confront the Reds in Brisbane in round seven of next year's Super Rugby competition.
MELBOURNE REBELS 2019 FIXTURE:
Week 1: Brumbies v Melbourne Rebels, Friday 15 February, 7.45pm, GIO Stadium, Canberra
Week 3: Melbourne Rebels v Highlanders, Friday 1 March, 7.45pm, AAMI Park, Melbourne
Week 4: Melbourne Rebels v Brumbies, Friday 8 March, 7.45pm, AAMI Park, Melbourne
Week 5: Lions v Melbourne Rebels, Sunday 17 March, 12.05am, Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
Week 6: Sharks v Melbourne Rebels, Sunday 24 March, 2.15am, Jonsson Kings Park, Durban
Week 7: Queensland Reds v Melbourne Rebels, Saturday 30 March, 7.45pm, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Week 8: Melbourne Rebels v Sunwolves, Saturday 6 April, 7.45pm, AAMI Park, Melbourne
Week 9: Melbourne Rebels v Stormers, Friday 12 April, 7.45pm, AAMI Park, Melbourne
Week 10: NSW Waratahs v Melbourne Rebels, Saturday 20 April, 7.45pm, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
Week 12: Hurricanes v Melbourne Rebels, Saturday 4 May, 3.15pm, Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Week 13: Melbourne Rebels v Queensland Reds, Friday 10 May, 7.45pm, AAMI Park, Melbourne
Week 14: Melbourne Rebels v Bulls, Friday 17 May, 7.45pm, AAMI Park, Melbourne
Week 15: Sunwolves v Melbourne Rebels, Saturday 25 May, 3.15pm, Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo
Week 16: Melbourne Rebels v NSW Waratahs, Friday 31 May, 7.45pm, AAMI Park, Melbourne
Week 17: Crusaders v Melbourne Rebels, Saturday 8 June, 5.35pm, Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch
Week 18: Melbourne Rebels v Chiefs, Friday 14 June, 7.45pm, AAMI Park, Melbourne