A former teammate of dumped Reds first-five Quade Cooper says he has the "best gig in the world" as he earns more than NZ$700k to play club rugby.

Cooper has been told by new Reds coach Brad Thorn he isn't in his plans for 2018 and not to bother coming to training - despite having two more years left to run on his contract.

With the 29-year-old yet to strike a deal with an overseas team, it looks likely he will play out the year for the Souths Rugby Club while still earning a reported AU$650,000 salary.

Former Wallaby Berrick Barnes, who will play for the Panasonic Wild Knights in the Brisbane Tens, said it was a "strange" situation.


Barnes also suggested Cooper would be a success in Japan but would struggle to find a Top League club ahead of the new season starting in August.

"It's just hard now with the timing of it all. Basically all the clubs have signed their players," Barnes said.

"If I was him I'd stay playing in club rugby. It sounds like the greatest gig in the world.

"In saying that, he's signed that deal and the Reds owe him that deal.

"The ball's in his court... I'm not sure what his goals are. But it's interesting watching on from afar."

Cooper has been in Auckland over the summer training with All Black and Blues second-five Sonny Bill Williams.

Another former teammate Digby Ioane said the Reds may live to regret demoting Cooper.

Ioane is close friends with dumped playmaker Cooper, and they played together in the Super Rugby club's 2011 championship year.


Ioane has been in regular contact with Cooper via text message and said he was in a good headspace.

"It's just a bit sad. He didn't do nothing wrong," Ioane told reporters on Wednesday, after arriving in town for the Brisbane Tens with his Japanese side Panasonic Wild Knights.

"I just feel for him, but I guess he's the most expensive club player (in Australia).

"I would take that job, that would be easier on my body.

"Good on him, I hope he stays at Souths and doesn't go anywhere and just proves himself again.

"It's just so weird, I've never seen that before."

Thorn is backing teenage talent Hamish Stewart at five-eighth this season, and also has cover in the form of recruits Jono Lance and Ben Lucas.

"It's not like you've got five-eighths falling from a tree," Ioane said.

"You need depth in Australia and Quade is one of the most experienced players.

"You can't lose your talent. He's actually a good leader."

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