Quade Cooper had everything going for him in 2011. Backing his Super Rugby Player of the year award in 2010, Cooper led the Queensland Reds to their first Super Rugby title, beating the Crusaders in the final, and later Australia to their first Tri Nations title since 2001. The Rugby World Cup in New Zealand? All went wrong.
The opening match against Ireland was the just the starting point, but it featured everything that went wrong for Cooper. He couldn’t handle the pressure, making bad decision after bad decision. It was even worse in the Semi Final against the All Blacks.
And there’s a backstory to it. Quade Cooper was born in New Zealand, moving to Australia at the age of 15. That’s enough to get the All Blacks fans against him during the tournament. In this year’s Tri Nations meeting between the Wallabies and All Blacks, it appeared like Cooper kneed New Zealand captain Richie McCaw in the face, although he was cleared of charges later on in a judicial hearing.
Him being the highest profile player on the Australian side and some of his comments to the media just added fuel to the fire. Cooper was Public Enemy number one by the time the Semi Final was about the kick off, and his terrible opening kick signaled the start of a terrible day for him and the Wallabies. New Zealand won 20-6, moving on to the final.
Today it was the consolation prize, an opportunity to end the World Cup with a better taste in his mouth. Australia did beat Wales 21-18 in a very physical encounter which saw too many players carried off the field injured, taking momentum and sting out of the match. Cooper lasted only 22 minutes. Later on it turned out he tore a cruciate ligament, and will probably be missing action for club and country for around six months.
Robbie Deans, the Wallabies head coach, could only encourage his fly-half – I have got no doubt he will come out of that stronger for it.