SYDNEY, Australia -- Wallaby flyhalf Quade Cooper was fined $60,000 and given a suspended three-match ban after being found guilty Wednesday by an Australian Rugby Union disciplinary panel of bringing the game into disrepute.
After a four-hour hearing Wednesday, a three-man panel found the 24-year-old Cooper guilty of making disparaging comments in September on social media and television which heavily criticized the Wallabies and coach Robbie Deans, including claims of a "toxic environment" which angered current and former players and coaching staff.
"It was a very fair hearing and I was very happy with the outcome," said Cooper, a talented playmaker who has 38 test caps since his international debut in 2008. "Obviously, the sentence that has been handed to me, I have full respect for that and I understand that I fell well below par in what it means to be a Wallaby. For all the supporters that are out there, my apologies.
"From now on, I'm just looking forward to the future -- hopefully having a big year (in 2013), with not only my state (Queensland) but the Wallabies. And I'm very much looking forward to overcoming my injury and getting back out on the field."
Cooper, who has a history of discipline issues, is sitting out of Australia's season-ending tour to Europe due to a persistent right knee ailment. He spent seven months on the sidelines following surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee following last year's World Cup, but reinjured it late in this season's Rugby Championship.
Cooper's current contract with the ARU expires on Dec. 31.
"ARU placed contract negotiations with Quade Cooper on hold until the tribunal process had been finalized," ARU deputy chief executive Matt Carroll said in a statement Wednesday. "Given the tribunal has handed down its decision, this matter as far as we are concerned has been finalized. ARU will now look at how we address the contract situation involving Quade Cooper."
On Sept. 28, Cooper said in a television interview that the national squad's "toxic environment is sort of destroying me as a person and as a player." He added that there were "a number of things" that need to be addressed with the team, starting with the facilities available to the Wallabies to prepare for international matches.
Cooper told "The Rugby Club" program that "other people feel the same but there's going to be people that are happy with the environment and some that are not happy ... my comments were not designed to add more division to the team."
"My hope and intent is that things are fixed from this point on and makes it a better environment for people moving forward whether I'm involved or not."
Cooper has talked about the possibility of switching to rugby league to play with his close friend and former All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams, a dual union and league international.