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Quade Cooper © Getty Images

Cooper a 'good influence' at the Rebels - captain



Melbourne Rebels captain Dane Haylett-Petty has warmly welcomed Quade Cooper's return from Super Rugby exile, describing the former Wallabies flyhalf as the "ultimate professional".

Cooper, 30, spent the 2018 season playing third-tier club rugby in Brisbane after being frozen out of the Queensland Reds by new coach Brad Thorn.

However, the 70-cap international has been thrown a career lifeline by the Dave Wessels-coached Rebels, who are bidding for a maiden playoffs place after eight fruitless seasons since joining the sprawling competition in 2011.

Mercurial Cooper has polarised fans and pundits for over a decade in Australian rugby but Wallabies fullback Haylett-Petty spoke of a player who had already won respect from the Rebels roster before even playing a game for them.

"I think the big thing for me is whether he's on the field or off he's such a good influence on the group, especially the younger guys," the Rebels skipper told reporters on Friday.

"He's the ultimate professional and sets a really good example for the boys and his rugby IQ is amazing – like no one I've ever played with or met – so just that knowledge he can impart to the group is amazing."

The Rebels open their season against the ACT Brumbies in Canberra next Friday and fans from both sides will be intrigued to see the resumption of Cooper's halves partnership with Will Genia.

The pair's creativity and inspiration were key to the Reds winning their maiden title in 2011.

They also combined to help Australia win the 2011 Tri-Nations – now rebranded as the Rugby Championship after Argentina's inclusion – and reach the semifinals of the World Cup in the same year.

"I'm probably expecting a bit of Quade magic," Haylett-Petty said of the Rebels' Super Rugby opener.

"I'm really excited about seeing Will and Quade, their combination back together. We know how dangerous they were for the Reds."

The Rebels were heavily backed to reach the playoffs last year after an injection of players from Western Force, the Perth-based club which was axed from the competition in 2017 over cost concerns.

They disappointed in the end, winning only seven of their 16 games to finish second in the Australian conference behind eventual semifinalists, the New South Wales Waratahs.

"We started quite well (last season), surprisingly considering how little time we had to come together last year but we were very disappointed not to play in finals," Haylett-Petty said.

"I think all the changes that we made off the field, this is the best placed the club's ever been going into a season which is really exciting."



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