Melbourne playmaker Quade Cooper admits the return to Super Rugby has taken a toll early in the season, leaving him feeling wrecked physically and mentally.
Cooper was sidelined from the competition last year when he was frozen out by Queensland coach Brad Thorn, but the 31-year-old has played more Super Rugby minutes than any of his Rebels teammates, who he joined for 2019.
Set to face the Reds in Melbourne on Friday night, Cooper said he really needed their bye two weeks ago.
"I was feeling it - my body was pretty wrecked and mentally I was pretty fried," Cooper said on Tuesday. "Coming off a club footy season into eight straight games - the physicality and the intensity each week was a big step up.
"That bye was great to have for all of us, but more for me - I feel very much refreshed."
Cooper vanquished some demons when the Rebels beat the Reds in round seven and said Friday night's game was about getting an all-important conference win rather than anything personal.
Cooper's form has been a reflection of the Rebels - brilliant at its best but inconsistent which meant Melbourne were only three points ahead of the fourth-placed Waratahs in a congested conference ladder.
Last round against the Hurricanes they turned in a first-half shocker to trail 26-0 but dominated the second stanza for a 29-19 loss.
He was last off the training track on Tuesday, intent on helping the Rebels find some form.
"It was a difficult game and we're very hard on ourselves so we've approached training this week as anyone probably would and have busted our backsides," he said.
"I always am hard on myself and I'll do what I can to put in a good performance for the team, as it's a big game for us."
Cooper said he still had ambitions to return to the Wallabies fold and again wear the No.10 jersey, having not played a Test since 2017. He recently renewed acquaintances with new Australian director of rugby Scott Johnson, having first met more than 10 years ago.
"I was involved in a Wallaby camp pre-World Cup in 2007 and he was a great guy and I really enjoyed the way he thought about the game," Cooper said. "He was very much outside the box in some areas.
"He's been down to chat with a few of the lads and we had a good yarn."