Talented St.George Queensland Reds playmaker Quade Cooper was back to his very best in 2013, playing every Super Rugby game and captaining his side against the British & Irish Lions.
Quade starts the season sitting just 10 caps shy of joining an elite group of players to have 100 caps for Queensland. In November last year he also achieved the impressive milestone of 50 Tests for the Wallabies.
He was again the guiding attacking force for the Reds in 2013, adding a further 172 points to his whopping tally, to bring him to 608 career points in Super Rugby.
With the current record for all-time Queensland Super Rugby points held by Elton Flatley on 629, Quade seems certain to set a new benchmark during the 2014 season.
While Cooper missed the British & Irish Lions Test series, he was back in Wallaby gold for The Rugby Championship and end of year Spring Tour and produced some of the greatest performances of his Test career – including leading the Wallabies to wins over Ireland and Wales.
In 2012, Quade made a successful recovery from his World Cup knee reconstruction to ignite the Reds backline in the latter stages of the Super Rugby competition.
After returning in round 13 against the Lions, Cooper went on to feature in each of the Reds’ remaining five regular season matches when the team went undefeated to finish at the top of the Australian Conference.
Unfortunately, a high-tackle charge in Queensland’s memorable final regular-season game against the Waratahs saw the mercurial talent suspended for the Reds’ qualifying final loss to the Sharks. However, Cooper shook the disappointment off and was selected in Australia’s Rugby Championship squad.
Cooper was initially bypassed for the Wallabies opening Test against the All Blacks in Sydney but was quickly recalled for their next three encounters, against New Zealand at Eden Park and in home matches against South Africa and Argentina.
However, just when Cooper seemed to be finding his feet late in the Argentina match, he was again hit with a minor knee injury which forced a premature end to his 2012 Rugby Championship campaign.
The injury did not impact significantly on his return for the Reds in 2013, when he guided the team to the finals. In 2011, Cooper was also the Wallabies first-choice flyhalf at the Rugby World Cup before suffering a knee injury in the bronze final.
Following on from a breakthrough 2010 Super Rugby season, Quade delighted Reds fans in 2011 - finishing the season with a record personal tally of 228 points. The haul obliterated the previous best mark – a 171 point effort also set by Quade just a year earlier.
Winner of the People’s Choice Award at the 2011 Reds Gala, Quade played in every match during the Reds Super Rugby title campaign, bringing up his 50th cap for Queensland in round one against the Western Force, before playing game number 50 in Super Rugby the following week against the Waratahs in Sydney.
Quade made his debut for the Reds in 2007 at the age of 18 in just his first year out of school. A naturally gifted player with a freakishly deceptive step, the exciting NZ-born product had a tough initiation in 2007 when asked to make the step up from Schoolboy Rugby to Super 14 level, but showed the benefit of experience as he quickly developed in 2008 and 2009.
At the end of 2008 he was selected by Wallabies coach Robbie Deans for the Wallabies Spring Tour, marking his debut with a match-winning try against Italy. Called up to the Wallabies again in 2009, Quade earned his first starting appearance against Italy and also played against the All Blacks and South Africa.
Quade was one of just four players - and the only member of the backline - to appear in all 13 matches during the Reds’ injury ravaged 2009 Super 14 campaign, scoring four tries, second only to Digby Ioane.
Quade features heavily throughout the Queensland Rugby record books although one of the more memorable milestones accomplished by the livewire flyhalf came in 2010 when he broke the record for most points scored by a Reds player in a Super Rugby match. Toppling Elton Flatley’s previous mark of 26, Quade produced a 31-point effort against the Crusaders – made up of two tries, three conversions and five penalties.
A try he started and completed in that same match was voted the Australian Super 14, and Reds, Try of the Season, while his all-round performance won him the Australian Super 14 Player of the Year award.
Those efforts translated into immediate success later in the year on the international stage where he achieved a number of firsts, including his first start at flyhalf for Australia, a winning debut in the Tri Nations and wins over both New Zealand and South Africa.
Quade’s injury in 2012 saw a string of 31 consecutive games in the number 10 jersey for the Reds – and 52 of 53 matches since March 15, 2008 - come to an end. The 31-game streak coincided with McKenzie joining the Reds in 2010 and Cooper playing in every match the previous two seasons.
DID YOU KNOW?
Quade played in an Anglican Church Grammar School First XV backline that also featured Wallaby teammate David Pocock at inside centre, while he also played his entire schoolboy representative rugby alongside another future Test teammate, scrumhalf Will Genia.