Exiled stars begin ‘mission impossible’
QUADE Cooper is stepping out of the wilderness with selection assured for the Brisbane City squad to be announced on Wednesday for the National Rugby Championship.
Both playmaker Cooper and drug-tainted Karmichael Hunt, with four solid club games under his belt, will be named in the City squad for the NRC kick-off on September 2.
Cooper, 30, has been an outcast in Queensland rugby since December when Reds coach Brad Thorn told him he was not required at training any longer.
The 70-Test flyhalf has admirably stepped up for a devoted season of club rugby to guide Souths into Sunday's knockout semi-final against Easts at Ballymore.
He has been a magnetic figure at every suburban ground he has played at.
He has stirred bumper bar takings at his home ground at Chipsy Wood Oval so the Magpies will at least be calling his $600,000-a-year Reds-Rugby Australia contract a smart investment.
Thorn has moved on from Cooper and there was no phone call to ever invite him back for even a training cameo during the Reds' 16-game campaign in Super Rugby.
Is this a thawing of the ice for a potential Cooper comeback at the Reds next season?
The short answer is "no."
The Reds do seed the City and Queensland Country squads for the NRC with non-Wallaby Super Rugby players but they are largely selected independently.
It would be ridiculous to penalise the entire City squad, and the NRC competition, by excluding Cooper's experience when he's clearly the best director of play for their squad.
Playing NRC is also in Cooper's best interests because humming along with match sharpness is the best way to stir suitors for any new professional contract.
While Wallabies coach Michael Cheika cut Cooper adrift from his Bledisloe Cup plans a year ago, utility back Hunt is in a more intriguing position.
Hunt is a player that Cheika does want and is more open-minded on a welcome mat for his warts-and-all package than the Reds.
Hunt's comeback in the NRC will likely be in the opener against the Western Force at Courtney Oval on September 2.
It will be played at the very club, Norths, that showed the strength to veto Hunt's return there because his drugs smear was "not considered a good fit" at a club with 500-plus juniors.
On Sunday coach Anthony Mathison is hoping the real GPS show up in the major semi-final against University at Ballymore after a recent 54-17 towelling.
"We didn't turn up when we last played Uni but we're closer to the right mindset after a really pleasing bounceback last weekend (to beat Easts 39-5)," Mathison said.
Uni have lost sniping Reds halfback Tate McDermott with an ankle injury but Scott Gale's pleasing recovery from a shoulder problem means he will slot readily into No.9.