Cooper on the road to recovery

2011-11-29 14:01

Sydney - Having promised a shot at rugby immortality, the Rugby World Cup instead delivered Quade Cooper a shattered knee, a bruised ego and a sense that nothing can ever again be taken for granted.

The New Zealand-born Wallaby now sits on the sidelines, waiting for his knee ligaments to mend as his teammates prepare for their clash with Wales at Cardiff's Millennium stadium on Saturday.

Rubbing salt into the wounds, James O'Connor's marauding turn at flyhalf in the Wallabies' 60-11 drubbing of the invitational Barbarians last week has stoked talk of Cooper losing grip on the position he has owned for the past two years.

The 23-year-old from the logging town of Tokoroa on New Zealand's North Island can do little but try to remain positive while he studies videos of himself and plots the next stage of his drama-filled career.

"It's not so tough watching them because I'm watching them do a good job and you still feel a part of it," the soft-spoken flyhalf told Reuters in an interview in Melbourne, describing his time off the pitch as a "privilege".

"But at the same time when you are having the break, you say 'I wish I was playing'. You've gotta look at it from a positive point of view and try to get myself back to being a better player and deal with this injury.

"It's good you know, someone has to be in that position when I'm not there and to see that (O'Connor's) doing a great job is only gonna help the team.

"If I do get a chance to go back and play, to have that knowledge of each other, how we play and to see him doing so well, it's only going to give himself confidence and the team confidence."

Cooper has not lacked opportunities to refine the art of looking on the bright side, having arrived in the country of his birth to a villain's welcome in the lead-up to the World Cup.

Dubbed a "cheap shot-artist" and "public enemy No 1" by a hostile local media, Cooper was booed by local spectators every time he got near the ball.

The pressure appeared to tell as the mercurial playmaker cut a jumpy figure in the tournament, with kicks flying off the side of his boot and his normally laser-sharp passes missing targets.

His World Cup ended with a standing ovation from the crowd, but it was sympathetic applause as he limped off the pitch early in the Wallabies' bronze medal victory over Wales, his knee having collapsed during one of his trademark side-steps.

"I don't know if (the scrutiny) got to me from an outsider looking in," said Cooper after walking gingerly onto a training pitch. "My teammates – everything seemed quite normal to me.

"I was lucky enough to have a great supporting network around me, I've got great family, great friends, obviously a great girlfriend as well so hopefully, having that kind of support I'll be better off for it.

"Going through all those experiences puts you in a better position, the only way you can learn is being thrust into it."


Cooper has contemplated the end of his Wallabies career before.

In 2009, he was charged with burglary after taking two laptops from a residence after a night out in Queensland's Gold Coast.

Humiliated by the media scandal and suspended by the Australian Rugby Union, the charges were later dropped.

He recovered to cement his place in coach Robbie Deans's Wallabies squad and in partnership with scrumhalf Will Genia, drove the Queensland Reds to the southern hemisphere's Super rugby title earlier this year

There was very little swagger in Cooper's bearing on Monday as he hobbled around, flicking passes to a state politician and a former Wales player for a photo-shoot to promote the British and Irish Lions Tour to Australia in 2013.

He faces at least another five months on the sidelines following his knee reconstruction and is expected to miss at least half of next year's Super season.

It may then take weeks to gain match fitness, leaving him scrambling to prove himself ready to return for the Wallabies' June tests against Wales and Scotland.

Although he speaks of himself as the incumbent flyhalf and a career Wallaby, when pressed, Cooper conceded his future remained up in the air and bound by only one year left on his national contract.

Having been wooed by clubs in Australia's hugely popular National Rugby League, a return to the rival code he played in his school days remains a temptation.

"It does (appeal) in some respects," he said. "It's a game that I haven't played in a couple of years since I was at school and it's a game that I enjoyed playing.

"I enjoyed my time playing rugby union as well and I've achieved a lot of things I've set out to as a young kid but there's always a lot more that you can achieve.

"I've got the opportunities to play for the Wallabies again... hopefully, given that chance."


  • marcus.daily3 - 2011-11-29 14:18

    Headline suggests the man has a drinking problem and judging by the way he played during the RWC, its not so far-fetched.

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