The 32-year-old is back in Brisbane after wrapping up his debut season with the Kintetsu Liners in Japan’s second-tier Top Challenge League in January.
Cooper still has another eight months until he is due to return to Japan for playing duties, and is contemplating asking Kintestu for permission to explore a short-term NRL deal before the June 30 transfer deadline.
“The experience, the club, the people … and I’m very much looking forward to going back there. But with their blessing, if they said that they don’t mind me going to the NRL for that short three-or four-month season to do something I’ve always wanted to achieve, then mate, I’d jump at the opportunity to fulfil a dream that I’ve had since I was a kid. The way things are kind of working out, it could be one where all the stars align.”
With the suspended competition aiming for a resumption date of May 28, Gold Coast Titans head of football Mal Meninga has expressed an eagerness to get Cooper on their books.
“We’d discuss it, for sure, and see what we think,” Meninga told the SMH.
“There’s no doubt he has the skill there. Any of the union guys, especially the backs, who are brought up on league can make the transition. There is a gamble there because ideally you’d want him to have a pre-season because you can’t play him in reserve grade.
“You’d have to throw him straight in. You don’t want someone like that to come to a club and fail. We’ll probably have to wait and see what sort of money we have to spend in the salary cap as well, but we’ll talk about it.”
The Australian-based newspaper also suggested the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs could also be in the hunt for Cooper’s signature as the Sydney club looks to bolster its stocks in the halves.
The Brisbane Broncos may have also thrown their hat into the ring in an attempt to lure the 70-test Wallaby’s services given he has been training at the club’s facilities with star forward Tevita Pangai Jr, but the Anthony Seibold-coached side’s roster is already full.
“I don’t mind who I play for,” he told the SMH. “Being a Queensland boy, I love Brisbane. I’m close to the Broncos boy and have always supported Queensland. But I grew up in New Zealand, my team was the Roosters and my favourite player was Brad Fittler.
“Then I loved the Tigers with Benji Marshall. Then when Sonny, who is now like a brother to me, came on to the scene, I was a massive Dogs supporter. For me it’s about playing the game I’ve always wanted to play and conquering a challenge.
“I reckon six would be my best position. Theoretically I could play fullback or in the centres, but fullback is a bit of specialist position in the game, especially with the high balls and bringing the ball back. For me my biggest strength in the game is my ball skills and my communication skills driving people around the field.”
Despite not having played a game of rugby league in over 15 years, Cooper doesn’t appear daunted by the prospect of diving headfirst into rugby league’s blue ribbon club tournament.
“I’d love that,” he said. “That’s the thing, going in there and jumping straight into it, I’d back myself. When I played my first game for the Reds, I was in grade 12 and Eddie (Jones) took me over to Japan and we played against the Japanese international team.
“I literally went from playing against school kids to an international team. If you’re going to learn, you’re going to learn pretty quickly being thrown in there.
“Jumping out on a rugby league field, it would be one of those things that I know that I would do well in terms of your effort, your skill, your ability. And the stage? That’s what you want as an athlete. To play on those stages and challenges. The unknown is one of those things that is kind of scary but exciting at the same time.”
Despite his heightened status within rugby union, the financial uncertainty that most clubs are surrounded by in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic means Cooper is unlikely to secure a big payday for a brief cross-code switch.
That hasn’t dismayed the former Queensland Reds, Melbourne Rebels and Toulon pivot’s league aspirations, though.
“Here’s the thing, money is not the be all and end all,” he said.
“It is a massive thing for athletes, but there’s more than just that. When you’re talking three or four months in the NRL, there’s a hit you’re going to cop but it’s not the end of the world. It’s not a two or three year deal. I have been fortunate enough to play for a while and earn money.
“I’m lucky that in Japan there has been no issues around my pay or having to take a pay cut. At the end of the day, if the opportunity arose you’d have to look at it and weigh everything up.”