How Quade Cooper’s club exile provided rugby clarity

Tue, 31/08/2021, 07:00 am
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
Wallabies flyhalf Quade Cooper and lock Izack Rodda spoke to media from Perth.

Quade Cooper is one of the most naturally gifted football players Australia has developed in recent memories.

The step, the cut-out, the flick pass, Cooper’s got all the skills to excite the masses.

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And for so long, he wondered why others couldn’t see and do what he could do.

As he embraces his time in Wallaby camp, the 33-year-old has revealed how his club rugby exile transformed how he saw his game and what he can give to the sport of Rugby.

The former Red was sensationally dumped from the Reds set-up by Brad Thorn in 2018 as he looked to overhaul their culture.

This saw the 70-cap Wallaby ply his trade in club rugby for Brisbane side Souths before making the move to the Rebels and subsequently overseas.

Heading back to the purest form of rugby at the grassroots level, it was his time guiding the side around at Chipsy Wood Oval that he realised his value and what he could give to the sport outside of being referred to simply as a 'naturally gifted' player.

“When I was playing club football at Souths in 2018, that was probably the first time I enjoyed passing on knowledge,” he told reporters. “Before that, I didn’t have the patience for it.

“At Super Rugby and Test level, I would get frustrated when someone didn’t understand their role or missed a jump on a play, forget a little bit of knowledge because, to me, you should automatically know that at that level. I think that was an error in judgement on my behalf instead of putting in the time and effort to help other people because everyone learns in different ways.

“When I went to Souths, a club that doesn’t have resources or money so the coaching and players, talented players but very raw. For myself, being fortunate to have great coaching and resources from such a young age, I was able to find patience in myself and in the things I had learnt.

“That was probably the first time I really enjoyed and I got more satisfaction out of seeing other players learn. You’d be out on the field and there would be something you had a conversation about or you could see guys working at week in, week out and you see the lightbulb moment that they realised and understood what’s going on, that was a moment for me that I got so much satisfaction out of.

“…Now as a man and a footballer player, I definitely have more patience for that.”

This is evident when you hear the youthful Wallaby squad speak about Cooper, having taken young half Noah Lolesio under his guidance as he begins his Test career.

However, for the veteran, the experience in camp has also been about what he can pick up himself after spending four years out of an international environment.

Whilst there has been no indication of whether he will feature or even stay with the squad, Cooper’s focus remains on how he can grow both personally and professionally before heading back to Kintetsu Liners in Japan.

“That hasn’t been a focus for me. I haven’t come in thinking ‘I just have to play a Test’ for me coming in here is been about learning,” he said.

“The things I’ve been able to learn and whether I go back to Japan after this game, the Rugby Championship I’m not 100% sure but I’ll have a wealth of knowledge footballing in terms of what I’ve been able to learn and gain about myself being back in this environment.

“The level of skill, training that we’ve been at, I haven’t had that for four years since I was last in a Wallabies squad.

“It hasn’t been a focus of mine to come in just play games. If I can grow as a man, grow as a rugby player and take that back to Japan and pass that onto other people, that’s a great reward for myself.

“That’s where my focus is at, anything else is bonuses along the way on this journey.”

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Dave Rennie remains tight-lipped on his squad for the third Test on Sunday, already forced into two changes with the departure of Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Hunter Paisami.

Whilst Cooper could feature alongside the returning Izack Rodda, he praised the depth and competitiveness of a squad hungry to bounce back after their disappointing defeats.

“Nah, not yet. He keeps everyone on their toes,” Cooper admitted.

“When we’re training, the teams are also quite mixed up. You always look to see where ‘Hoops’ (Michael Hooper) or Marika (Koroibete) is and try and get some indication from that.

“The boys are all just fighting for spots…the competition throughout the squad, we’ve got some fantastic players here who are putting in a lot of work and effort to become better players and put their hands up for selection.”

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