Cooper heads north with southern support


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Auckland-bound Greg Cooper goes to a rival franchise with the blessing of the Highlanders, the team he has coached for the last four years.

Cooper, 42, is joining the Blues as assistant to coach David Nucifora.

Highlanders chairman Stuart McLauchlan said today the new role gives Cooper a great opportunity to demonstrate his skills in a much bigger franchise.

Cooper had a year left on his Highlanders contract and McLauchlan said he and assistant coach Glenn Moore came through the review process well. ‘Greg has a two-year contract with the Blues so this opportunity puts him in a role for a year longer than he would have had if he had stayed in Dunedin,’ McLauchlan said.

Cooper said he was excited by the prospect of his new role and left the Highlanders post with no regrets. ‘Shifting from Dunedin will be tough, it’s where I call home, but the time is right to move on in my coaching career.


Although challenging at times I have thoroughly enjoyed my six years at the Highlanders. Leaving a year early will have positives too, because the new Highlanders coach will have the chance to build on what’s been achieved with the team at the same time as a new chief executive officer is building on the good work achieved by Russell Gray,’ he said.

Gray recently resigned from his role with effect from November.

Cooper, although he played 121 games for Otago and remains the province’s top points-scorer, is returning to the only franchise for which he has played. Cooper played for the Blues in the first year of Super 12 in 1996. He also played for Auckland before moving to Dunedin.

Cooper’s coaching career began in 2001 as an assistant coach with Otago. He was then co-coach in 2002 and head coach in 2003 before assuming the Highlanders role.

McLauchlan said the task for the Highlanders is now to find a new head coach and the position would be advertised. Moore is the incumbent assistant coach and McLauchlan said he could of course apply for the head coach role.

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