Ashley-Cooper wants to emulate hero

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

He doesn’t recall many match details but one name stood out for a seven-year-old Adam Ashley-Cooper among weeks of bleary-eyed mornings during the 1991 World Cup.

His dad would drag him out of bed to watch the Wallabies’ run towards their first Webb Ellis trophy.

“I was seven I think, and my dad woke me up and it was the 1991 World Cup,” he said.

“it was a World Cup final and  I remember him pointing out David Campese and saying the name and, “this guy, he knows how to score tries,’ because I was obsessed with scoring tries.”

Twenty-four years, 112 caps and 37 Wallabies tries later, Ashley-Cooper is third on Australia’s all-time list, trailing only Campese (64) and Chris Latham (40) in the count.

He’s one of the veterans of the Australian team, playing in his third World Cup but preparing for first World Cup final.

One of just four in the current squad in his third quadrennial tournament - Stephen Moore, Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell the others- and its most capped member, he still feels like a relative rookie in unchartered territory this week.

His first World Cup was an awe-inspiring experience and something that opened his eyes to the nature of the tournament.

“I was absolutely taken back by the atmosphere and the whole competitive environment of a rugby world cup and how everyone had got behind their nations and how patriotic people were,” he said.

Australia’s quarter-final loss to England in 2007 affected him greatly, long after the team departed Marseilles.

“I took it pretty hard and went into a bit of a shell for a few months,” he said

“It took me a while to recover.

“Ever since then I’ve only had motivation to succeed in a Rugby World Cup and there’s an opportunity for that on the weekend.”

At 31 and about to head to Bordeaux to start a European career in the same vein as good mates Giteau and Mitchell, he knows this is likely to be his last World Cup chance.

It’s made him cherish it all the more, a shift from the forward-looking mentality he had has a 23-year-old in that first tournament in 2007.

“The older you get and the more you know the time’s limited in the jersey. I’m 31, I’ve played 112 times and the time in the jersey’s limited,: he said.

“It’s fair to say that this will be my last World Cup, I doubt I’ll be running around in four years’ time. that’s for sure.

Ii think early on it’s not a matter of not appreciating it or taking it for granted it’s just that you’re so focused on improving and you’re too busy thinking about next week.

“Now it’s about enjoying every moment as it comes.

“I‘m enjoying myself.”

He’s not the only one enjoying this World Cup, in a tournament where the Wallabies have attracted many admirers for their on and off field displays.

“I think more than anything the culture is a lot more positive, it’s stronger,” he said.

“It’s more willing to work harder around training .

“That’s a culture you certainly need.

“We’ve got a great dynamic about personalities, characters, youth, experience, senior players and with that dynamic you mould and create a culture.

“The culture at the moment’s one that’s put us in the position we’re in today.”

Ashley-Cooper hopes that seven year-old boys and girls back home are dragged out of bed and inspired as he was.

“I’d like to think that there’s going to be parents that are going to be waking up their kids or their seven year old boys to watch the game (on Saturday),” he said.

“I’ve had that imprint on me for my whole life.

“That’s an opportunity that we get to do is just like have impression on a lot of yougner players and that’s exactly what we want to do.

“We want to inspire them and we’ve got an opportunity to do that on the weekend and create history for those younger generations.”

And who knows, maybe those parents will be pointing out the man in number 14 and saying “Adam Ashley-Cooper, that guy knows how to score tries.”