Quade Cooper free to continue boxing
December 3, 2013
Quade Cooper made a successful professional debut in the boxing ring in February © Getty Images
Richard Graham has no problem with Quade Cooper stepping into the ring again, despite the injury risk boxing poses to the fly-half's rugby career.
Cooper has made it clear since inspiring the Wallabies' tour-ending 30-26 win over Wales that he will not follow in the footsteps of Sonny Bill Williams, his good friend who does not plan to continue a budding boxing career for at least three years. Cooper said previously, before Australia played England at Twickenham in November, that "I love [boxing] ... it's something that during the week I find is very positive in my life", but he may have to schedule his second professional bout between Queensland Reds pre-season trials - as he did when he made his fight debut in February. Cooper made a successful professional debut with a first-round stoppage of insurance salesman Barry Dunnett on the undercard of Williams' heavyweight win over former champion Francois Botha in Brisbane.
Graham, the Reds' head coach, could be forgiven for not wanting to see his star charge back in the ring as he prepares to officially take over the Reds reins from Ewen McKenzie, but he said that boxing training seemed to benefit Cooper's rugby game.
"Quade handled the situation last year," Graham said. "I have no issues [with Cooper continuing boxing]. I think physically it keeps him in really good condition. Over the years, he has learned a lot of self-discipline. I think he has really matured, and that has reflected in his performances the last few weeks."
Cooper has risen under McKenzie to become Australia's vice-captain, and Graham agreed with suggestions that his playmaker's "outstanding" efforts on the Wallabies' end-of-year tour of Europe should have Cooper mentioned as a future Reds captain, But he confirmed that James Horwill would be the Queensland captain in 2014, noting the lock had produced strong Test efforts since being stripped of the Wallabies captaincy.
"Quade has been outstanding on this tour," Graham said. "He is confident and when he is you see the full array of skills that he has got; I think that makes us a better team. Quade has been a leader here for the last three or four years by the nature of his position [but] Horwill has captained the team very well. There is no reason in my mind to change the captaincy."
Graham baulked at suggestions that Horwill's output as a player for the Wallabies had improved without the burden of captaincy. "I don't think necessarily taking the captaincy off him was the catalyst [for his tour form]," Graham said.
Graham said that Rod Davies was his only injury concern ahead of a busy pre-season, which will include a February 14 trial against Melbourne Rebels at Ballymore. Davies has a knee injury.
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