Reborn Quade lauds new Reds rugby culture
A clean slate, full pre-season and a backline jam-packed with potential has Quade Cooper right where he wants to be as he readies for his Super Rugby return.
Cooper is back with the Queensland Reds after an ill-fated year with French glamour club Toulon and Australia's rugby sevens program, and he's feeling good about what lies ahead.
For one thing, the 28-year-old is actually fit - unlike the last time he was at Ballymore, when a run of three separate shoulder injuries disrupted his charge towards the 2015 World Cup and left the struggling Reds without a playmaker-in-chief for long periods.
Less than satisfied with life under former coach Richard Graham, Cooper said the atmosphere was now "completely different" following Nick Stiles' appointment and a huge off-season recruiting spree.
"The environment is probably the biggest change," Cooper said.
"There's a good vibe here, you walk into the locker room and automatically you can feel that culture; the boys are exuding confidence.
"That's the major thing with any sport. If you can feel that from the outside and you become absorbed in it, you feel right at home."
Cooper is eager to start bedding down combinations with Queensland's vast array of attacking talent, including the likes of Wallaby Samu Kerevi, young guns Izaia Perese and Campbell Magnay and a fit-again Karmichael Hunt.
The "freakish" athleticism of winger Eto Nabuli also caught his eye upon Monday's return to the training paddock: "He's got a wingspan of, it looks like about nine foot."
"To have a guy like that out on the field with freakish pace, size, athleticism - and then you look across the whole board, all these guys who are fantastic athletes, makes me feel so confident coming into the season."
Also on Cooper's agenda is regaining Australia's No.10 jersey from Bernard Foley.
Foley moved to inside centre to accommodate Cooper in a shock selection switch-up from Michael Cheika during their Rugby Championship campaign last year, but Foley started ahead of Cooper in every match of their European tour, cementing him as first-choice Wallaby five-eighth.
However, a successful season in a winning Reds team could change the selection landscape once more.
"I've got everything to look forward to," Cooper said.
"I can't say enough (about) how excited I am, the goals I've set. For me, I'm going to push and give everything I've got to make sure I have a good season this year."