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Laurie Daley likens Quade to Benji
By Darren Walton
16:46 AEST Tue Nov 20 2012

NSW State of Origin coach Laurie Daley has lauded Quade Cooper's Benji Marshall-like talents as Australian rugby greats warn of the damage his potential departure could have on their code.

Cooper's professional future remained up in the air on Tuesday, the usually Twitter-happy five-eighth going to ground as speculation swirled around him.

The 24-year-old was reportedly set to quit Australian rugby to either continue playing overseas, switch to rugby league or possibly even turn to boxing.

The disillusioned playmaker's manager Khoder Nasser said on Monday Cooper would hold a press conference next week in the wake of being offered a downgraded, incentive-based contract by the Australian Rugby Union.

"It's sad. We can't afford to throw away players of his calibre," Test legend Mark Ella told AAP.

Queensland coaching director Ewen McKenzie, one of Cooper's closest allies, remained hopeful that the 38-Test star would still be with the Reds in 2013.

McKenzie also conceded it would be a hammer blow to the Reds if Cooper did walk away.

"We've done massive things in the past three years in terms of growing the support base, the membership base and finding ways to connect the rugby community to the game and create some positivity," said McKenzie.

"Now he's been a major part of that - not the only person - but our rugby kids need to have heroes and they attach themselves to different people and Quade's certainly one of them.

"You only have to come to an open training session and you'll see how many kids flock to him.

"He has that pulling power, which is important because we're in a hot competition with other codes."

Despite the controversies he's stirred, Cooper has more than 600,000 Twitter followers and was voted runner-up as the fans' most popular player at this year's ARU awards.

Daley said Cooper would "most definitely" make it in rugby league should he make the switch to the NRL.

"He's very talented. I'm sure there'd be a few parties interested in his services," Daley said.

"I suppose he's a bit like Benji in terms of when he's got the ball in his hands he can make the opposition defence stop and it seems as though he's got plenty of time and ability.

"He has certainly, from what I've seen, got the skills to be capable of playing NRL."

While McKenzie chuckled at the prospect of Cooper seriously pursuing a boxing career, he was reluctant to speculate on his next move.

"He's in negotiations with the ARU and we're not involved in those negotiations," he said.

"The frustration has been that we (Queensland) came to terms with Quade some time ago, back in June now, and he declared his intentions to rugby and to us for three years.

"He's given us his word ... I've never felt that he was going to do anything other than play for the Reds.

"If something has changed, it would be disappointing but it's been beyond our control if that's the case."

The ARU's revised offer to Cooper doesn't even place the 2011 Super Rugby Player of the Year among the top 30 in Australia.

But McKenzie didn't wish to buy into the debate over Cooper's worth.

"I'm biased," he said.

"I think a lot of people would have seen that in the right environment he can really do things."

Cooper's Reds and Wallabies halves partner Will Genia agreed "he would be a massive loss".

"But I am a close friend and I want to see him happy and for him to feel that he is respected and getting treated fairly," Genia said.

"That's not to say he is not being treated fairly ... I would love for him to stay, no doubt.

"I love playing with him, there's no other No.10 I enjoy playing with and there's no other guy I love having in my team more."