Cooper’s long road to redemption

Graham Henry suggests that it will be some time yet before the New Zealand public forgive Tokoroa-born Quade Cooper for his riling antics.

Born in the small Waikato town, Cooper moved to Brisbane at the age of 14 and progressed through the Queensland ranks. He later represented the Reds and Wallabies, and incited the ire of the Kiwis when he first pushed Richie McCaw in the 2010 Test in Hong Kong and then kneed the All Blacks captain in the head in a 2011 Test played in Brisbane.

New Zealanders have taken exception to his arrogance in the build up to this tournament, with many of the local papers running stories about how Cooper is New Zealand’s ‘Public Enemy No 1′. At Sunday’s World Cup semi-final at Eden Park, the crowd booed the Wallabies No 10 whenever he touched the ball.

Cooper had a poor game, but stayed away from the off-the-ball scuffles. Asked if New Zealand would continue to boo Cooper in future games, Henry intimated that it would be awhile before the public would forgive him for his past transgressions.

‘Quade lost a bit of respect for his actions in previous Test matches and he has to earn the right to get that respect back from New Zealand public,’ said Henry.

‘He kept his nose clean tonight which was good to see, and gained some respect, but it will be a while [before it is fully earned by the New Zealand people].

Cooper and the Wallabies will remain in New Zealand for another week as they prepare for next Friday’s third-place play-off against Wales. The match will also be staged at Eden Park. The gifted but erratic flyhalf said he had no regrets after the Wallabies’ semi-final loss.

‘I hold my head high and know that I’ve given it my all,’ Cooper told reporters. ‘Everybody will have their opinions and I’m not going to try and change any perceptions. I am who I am, and I play the way I play, and if you like it or not, that’s me.’

He added that he won’t be losing any sleep over his perceived status as New Zealand’s most hated man. In fact, he believes he will benefit from this experience.

‘Everyone getting at me personally, I’m definitely going to be better for it,’ he said. ‘The way everyone came at me from all angles, whether it be media, the crowd, trying to make a big buzz out of it. I got used to it and I think I’ll take a lot of confidence from that.

‘So when we play them again, whether it be in a Bledisloe or Super Rugby over here or another World Cup if I’m lucky enough to get that chance, I’m sure I’ll be better for it.’

By Jon Cardinelli, at Eden Park