OUTSPOKEN AUSTRALIAN FLY-HALF Quade Cooper was today handed a suspended three-match ban and fined for bringing the game into disrepute by criticising the Wallabies and coach Robbie Deans.
Cooper, 24, made headlines in September when he lashed out on social media at the “toxic” environment within the national squad and the defensive style of Deans, also stoking speculation that he would defect to rugby league.
He repeated his grievances on a television programme less than a week later, saying he did not want to be involved with the Wallabies under the current regime because it was “destroying” him as a player and a person.
Cooper, currently sidelined with a knee injury, was hauled before a disciplinary hearing to explain himself on Wednesday before he was punished.
The three-match ban was suspended as was a third of the $60,000 fine on the proviso that Cooper is of good behaviour for the next two years — meaning he will be available for national selection once he recovers from his knee injury.
The Queensland Reds playmaker was contrite.
“It was a very fair hearing and I was very happy with the outcome,” Cooper told reporters.
Obviously, the sentence that has been handed to me, I have full respect for that and I understand that I fell well below par in what it means to be a Wallaby… my apologies.
From now on, I’m just looking forward to the future — hopefully having a big year, with not only my state but the Wallabies.
The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) welcomed the resolution of the issue and said contract negotiations with Cooper — placed on hold pending the disciplinary process — could now resume.
“Given the tribunal has handed down its decision, this matter as far as we are concerned has been finalised,” said its deputy CEO Matt Carroll.
“ARU will now look at how we address the contract situation involving Quade Cooper.”
Though he has signed again with the Reds for three years, Cooper’s national contract with the ARU expires on December 31. There have been questions over his future, fuelled by his comments about switching to rugby league.
Cooper sparked intense speculation that he would follow former All Black Sonny Bill Williams to the NRL (National Rugby League) next year but the Queensland Reds dismissed speculation over such a move as “nonsense”.
Cooper’s Super 15 coach Ewen McKenzie said earlier this week that the polarising flyhalf wanted to put the dramas behind him and win back the Wallabies’ No.10 jersey to help defeat the British and Irish Lions in 2013.