Super Cooper takes on Crusading cousin
Magician Quade Cooper even amazed his coaches and team-mates by propelling the Reds into a Super Rugby final but a rival who knows his tricks better than any other lies in wait.
Cooper will line up opposite his second cousin and long-time childhood team-mate Sean Maitland when Queensland meets the Crusaders in Saturday night’s decider at Suncorp Stadium.
Maitland was born five months after the Reds playmaker and grew up alongside him in the small Waikato timber town of Tokoroa where the pair played nine years of junior rugby together before Cooper moved to Brisbane.
While Queensland had Cooper to thank for his stunning man-of-the-match display in their 30-13 semi-final victory, the Crusaders were equally grateful for winger Maitland.
The 23-year-old flyer sparked their 29-10 thumping of the Stormers in Cape Town with an early 55m intercept try and will be sniffing out Cooper’s cut-out passes in the final.
“I can’t let that get the better of me,” Cooper told AAP.
“We used to play backyard footy with each other and played Under-5s all the way coming through together all the way to U-13s.
“It will be a massive occasion.
“Sean’s always been a good kid and very good natured, a great person, he’s pretty much opposite on the field.
“He’s very dangerous, he’s been one of their best this year and there’s going to be a lot of threats and he’s going to be one of them.
“I remember when we were growing up I used to pass him the ball in space and just tell him `run’ because he was so quick.”
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie and blazing winger Rod Davies, who first played with Cooper as a schoolboy at 15, admitted even they were astonished by the Wallabies five-eighth’s freakish skills against the Blues.
He set up one of the tries of the season to Ben Tapuai through a scintillating sideline run which bamboozled half of the Blues team.
“As (backs coach) Jim McKay says he’s got the wand in his hand and he’s waving the wand around and people are mesmerised and things happen,” McKenzie said.
Cooper has consistently shown his love for the big stage in 2011 and once again reserved his best for the sudden-death pressure in front of 44,940 fans – hundreds of which waited for his autograph up to 80 minutes after fulltime.
“That’s what we play rugby for, to play big games like that,” he said. “I just love the challenge of playing footy.
“There’s a lot of pressure on you to perform in a game like this but enjoying it and just having fun is what I like to do.
“Where better place to do it than in front of 50,000 people in a massive backyard so that’s what I see it as, and just playing the game I’m used to.”
The Reds emerged unscathed from their four-tries-to-one victory with No.8 Radike Samo cleared of a head knock and could be boosted by the return of winger Luke Morahan (hamstring).
The Crusaders have halfback Andy Ellis in grave doubt with a knee injury.© AAP 2013