Brisbane – The Reds reject Quade Cooper said he holds no grudges against his former team-mates after spearheading the Melbourne Rebels to a highly personal 32-13 Super Rugby thumping of his old club.
“It wasn’t the boys that didn’t want me,” Cooper said after being warmly embraced by Reds players after Saturday’s match in Brisbane.
“They are your brothers you’d go to war with and I’ll always be supporting them,” Cooper added, but would not be drawn on how he feels about Brisbane coach Brad Thorn, the man who acrimoniously exiled him last season.
Earlier this season Cooper tweeted that “one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure” – a remark widely interpreted as a dig at his former mentor.
“I want this franchise to do well and it’s a little bit sad to see when they’re struggling on and off the field a little bit,” said Cooper, who kicked five goals and was instrumental in two of the four tries that secured a bonus point to put the Rebels top of the Australian conference.
His halfback combination with another former Reds star, scrumhalf Will Genia, is going from strength-to-strength and has prompted calls for a return to the Wallabies for Cooper to have a crack at a third Rugby World Cup campaign later this year.
Flyhalf Cooper played 118 games for the Reds and helped deliver their only Super Rugby title in 2011 before a falling out with Thorn in late 2017.
He was banished to lower-tier Premier Rugby last year before the Rebels snapped him up.
Thorn refused to talk publically about Cooper and Genia in the build-up to the match, but in the aftermath admitted the danger they posed had been discussed internally.
“They were definitely guys that we talked about in preparation,” he told reporters.
“You always respect your opponent and are aware of their strengths but we were really trying to work on our game getting better.”
Cooper earned the last of his 70 caps for the Wallabies in mid-2017 and Australia coach Michael Cheika said earlier this month he would be in “strong contention” for a surprise recall if his form continues.