Quade Cooper buried in a scrum of hate
Beleaguered and hopelessly out-of-form Wallabies fly half Quade Cooper is currently suffering a barrage of hate of the sort usually reserved for criminals and lying politicians.
He doesn’t deserve it. He deserves a healthy dose of public scepticism after two truly terrible World Cup performances, but he doesn’t deserve the sort of bile being poured out across the internet today.
Before the Cup, Cooper was widely hailed as Australia’s great hope. Rod Macqueen, who coached the 1999 Wallabies to World Cup glory, said he was the one player with the “X-factor to make the difference”. Fairfax scribe Spiro Zavos called him “the Picasso of the pass”.
The broad narrative was that this was Cooper’s Cup to go out and win. That the son of a battling single mother could return to his boyhood home, put behind him forever his years of struggle and that bizarre recent run-in with the law on the Gold Coast, and achieve complete redemption.
Ah, but sport isn’t like the movies. If this was a movie, the final scene would show Cooper returning triumphant to his home town of Tokoroa. And he would have told a barefoot kid on the street “it doesn’t matter where you’re from, all that matters is what’s inside”, or some such gooey rubbish.
Back in reality, what’s happened is that the world has turned on Cooper. People are calling him arrogant and big-headed.
There’s no doubt he has courted some of that vitriol. Cooper’s manager Khoder Nasser is hardly known for the mild-mannered, humble men in his stable.
Nasser paraded Cooper around like a prize bull earlier this year, testing his market value in rugby league. The duo then cynically signed a one year ARU contract which would nicely see Cooper through till the end of the World Cup, after which it was widely believed he could switch to league.
That’s hardly made him popular with the average sports fan. But Cooper’s main PR battle is with rugby writers, who see his performances in press conferences as cocky and somehow just not serious enough.
They are accustomed to more statesmanlike figures like George Gregan and John Eales, but those guys grew up in an age before rugby’s professional era. And while they played the bulk of their international careers in said era, their basest mercenary instincts were always subjugated to the power and heritage of the almighty Wallabies Guernsey.
To Cooper, life is a bit of a laugh. Rugby is serious, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a bit of fun with it too. You only have to follow Cooper’s Twitter feed to see that attitude. What to Quade Cooper is light-hearted banter is to others deep disrespect.
The Kiwi media seized on Cooper’s perceived lack of respect for their beloved captain Richie McCaw like he’d made a poor taste joke about Christchurch earthquake victims. And now, some Australians are turning on him like he’s made a bad joke about the Queensland floods or the Victorian bushfires.
He hasn’t done anything of the sort. Indeed, Cooper has always thrown himself into the sports star’s now standard rounds of sick kid visits, and other goodwill outings, with all his energy.
Cooper is different. He is a diamond stud earring in a room full of houndstooth jackets. He’s still got some growing up to do but if it was a crime to talk yourself up occasionally, then every sportsperson in America would be in jail.
Problem is, Quade Cooper has officially had a World Cup shocker. Clearly, all the pressure has been too much. But that doesn’t give people the right to say he can’t play. Anyone who watched this year’s Super XV champs, the Queensland Reds, would tell you otherwise.
It also doesn’t give rugby league figures like Parramatta Eels chief executive Paul Osborne the right to smugly declare “I’m glad we didn’t sign him after watching him last weekend”.
At any rate, aren’t we always told that backs like Cooper can only do their job when the forwards are going forward? Which Wallabies forward dominated his opponent on Sunday night? Cooper wasn’t the only Wallaby back to struggle behind a beaten pack.
A small sub-heading on the Fox Sports website today read: “Quade Cooper Shares drop”. No doubt they have. But aren’t the smart investors always telling us to avoid short term fluctuations and hang tough for the long term?
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