Josh Rakic - RugbyHeaven
Cooper: I couldn't walk away
Sydney - Wallabies playmaker Quade Cooper says he's happier than he has ever been - and has Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor to thank for it.
Less than a year after his burgeoning career was in jeopardy when he faced criminal charges, which were later dropped, Cooper has reinvented himself to become the most exciting player in Australian rugby.
And while his superstar status could have resulted in him playing in the NRL next season instead of the Rugby World Cup, Cooper revealed his decision to stay came down to loyalty and mateship.
''It was obviously a big decision,'' said the 22-year-old, who turned down a three-year offer from the Parramatta Eels to sign a one-year contract extension with ARU.
''I had huge things weighing on my mind. There was a World Cup to be won, some of my best mates were in the team, and there was something I felt we were building towards with the way we were improving. But at the same time there was also a massive challenge in rugby league, and that was something that very much enticed me.
''I feel I made the right decision. To go on this tour with these guys and prepare for a World Cup next year is pretty massive.''
Cooper said he wouldn't rule out playing NRL in the future but had not committed to linking with the Eels in 2012. ''There's still plenty of time for me in both codes,'' he said. ''My immediate future for now is settled and I'm focused on nothing but the Wallabies, but there's always time down the track - I'm only 22 so I can't close the door on any options. And there's certainly no rush.
''I'm going to give rugby my all for now, and hopefully we can put a few trophies in the cabinet.''
What if O'Connor, Beale and Dave Pocock commit to the Wallabies beyond 2012? ''Mate, I guess we'll tick that box when we come to it,'' said the Queensland Reds star, who this week returned from a Bali holiday with Beale and O'Connor.
''I see it being a long time away with this tour, Super 15 next year, Tri-Nations, and hopefully if I'm injury free and playing good footy, I'll get selected in the World Cup squad and bring that trophy back to Australia.''
Cooper said he was indebted to rugby and owed the Wallabies his all after making it through the darkest period of his life.
''I can't even tell you how much my life has changed in a year,'' he said. ''There have been so many ups but just as many downs. When you go through as much life experience as I have in six to 12 months there has to be a lot of things you learn from it, and you have to be able to take the positives out of it and learn from the negatives.
''Kurtley has done that, too. The good thing about footy is it's a good way to escape from everything once you are on the field with your best mates. If something bad happens to one of your mates, you are there to support them. I think that's what happened in both of our cases - we've really found out who our friends are and who is not.
''It's been a good thing having guys like KB, James O'Connor and David Pocock to help each other through the good times and the bad.''