Is a $40k fine too heavy for being a loudmouth?
The $40,000 fine dished out to rugby player Quade Cooper for calling the Wallabies setup “toxic” is a huge penalty. It really is a massive slug for what was essentially a thought crime.
Wayne Carey was never fined $40k for screwing a team-mate’s wife. Rugby league player Nate Myles was never fined $40k for pooing in a hotel corridor (though his club copped a hefty fine), and Simon Katich was never fined $40k for questioning the manner of his dumping from the Test team.
There’s actually a strong similarity between the situations of Katich last year and Cooper in mid 2012. Both were echoing the sentiment of ordinary fans across Australia that the goons running the show were stuffed. In Katich’s case, that meant cricket’s national selection panel. In Cooper’s case, it mostly meant Wallabies coach Robbie Deans.
Kiwi blow-in Deans has been a failure, not because he didn’t win a World Cup but because rugby union has become less popular and less interesting in his four-and-a-half year tenure. Australia barely averages a try a game now. Whatever happened to running rugby? Win or lose, that’s what Australian fans want to see.
Cooper called the Wallabies set-up “toxic” for a bunch of reasons. He had valid logistical frustrations about the Wallabies’ training facilities being inferior to his Super XV provincial team, the Queensland Reds. But he also had serious concerns about the Robbie Deans stodgy game plan which stifled his creativity.
The guy, in short, had legitimate beefs. Though as Cooper himself contritely admitted yesterday, that doesn’t mean he was entitled to air them publicly.
Quade Cooper being Quade Cooper, he’ll never get a degree in diplomacy. There are certain things you just don’t do in sport, or any workplace really, and one of the biggies is bagging your own team. No matter how unsettled the environment, you just don’t air those grievances publicly.
And that’s not just an unspoken code, but a code of conduct the modern player is contract-bound to uphold. Rugby authorities really had no choice but to give Cooper a great big fine, and no doubt they smirked inside while dishing it out.
So in one sense, Cooper got what he deserved. As mentioned, though, it’s a big sum for saying what many fans are thinking – and what many of Cooper’s team-mates were no doubt thinking too.
In person, Cooper is much like his public persona. He can come across as a bit of a dope, then he’ll say something clever. He’ll be momentarily bitter, then come up with a mood-lightening one-liner. The guy lives his life much as he plays rugby. He’s brilliant but flawed, quick-thinking but not always as strategic as he might be.
Australians still don’t really have a feel for whether this guy is really committed to rugby union or whether he’d secretly rather switch to league. In all likelihood, Quade Cooper doesn’t know either.
One thing we do know is that Cooper is now likely to keep his trap shut for a while, or a little more shut than usual anyway.
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