It was in Brisbane last year at the Australia v Ireland Test match where I saw something from Quade Cooper I’ll remember, I think, forever.
In the middle of what was a pretty boring game of rugby, Quade Cooper took the ball and attacked the Irish defence.
A skip step and acceleration speared him between Irish flankers Niall Ronin and Shane Jennings and a sharp sidestep shed fullback Rob Kearney as he dived over.
The final side-step was a thing of beauty. I saw it on television later on and still don’t think the television cameras did Cooper’s try any justice.
Watching it in real time I had to appreciate how incredibly talented Cooper was, and how impossible it would be for me to ever defend a man with such dancing feet.
There are times when I think Cooper can do things not more than five rugby players in the world can do, which makes him a rare talent.
I can also attest that watching his long pass live is another wonderful aspect of his game. Regarding his pass, people are fair to compare him to Stephen Larkham.
But last year Cooper’s defence was very badly exposed against England. The Australian media were incredibly harsh on him, and for once they were correct.
Rumours surfaced that the Wallaby camp had a private talk to Cooper and noted if his defence remained that way, he’d lose his spot.
Playing for Queensland Cooper often drops back to fullback, which isn’t a move I like because I’d like to see Quade learn to defend in that 10-12 channel.
His kicking from hand has also been a curious feature of his game. Against the Waratahs some of his cross-field kicks were pointless, and really I felt Queensland were fortunate to win that game.
Cooper’s clearing kicks were horrible too, and ensured the Reds were defending their line (which they did tremendously well) far more often than they should have.
Cooper reminds me of cricketer Mitchell Johnson. Last summer Johnson made a tremendous comeback after being dropped to take a tremendous haul in Perth. It seemed like Australia had a hope of retaining the Ashes.
But afterward Johnson seemed to lose focus, and went from highs to lows in every game.
Mark Nicholas noted that the Australian public might have to get used to the fact that there are games where he performs brilliantly, and others where he doesn’t. He goes from high to low.
Australians now accept (I think) that there are things about Cooper that will never change. You just have to accept him for his genius and weaknesses.
In every game I watch Quade Cooper play I see something I admire, and then I see something that’s diabolical. Every player makes mistakes, but it seems to me there are real holes in Cooper’s game, and every time he does something incredible, the next minute a hole is exploited.
After the last few Super 14 games I caught up with a good mate of mine from New Zealand. He sat down and smiled. “What?” I asked. He replied: “You’ll have Quade Cooper for the World Cup.”
My friend was of the opinion that Australia can’t win the World Cup with Quade Cooper.
Cooper will start at the World Cup, and I really don’t think Australia has much of a choice.
Any chance to solidify Berrick Barnes at five-eighth in 2008 disappeared with the emergence of Robbie Deans. Barnes was red hot back then, and Australia’s best back.
But his form in 2010 wasn’t as impressive (although I still rate Barnes highly), and it kind of felt like Deans missed an opportunity to deploy a missile.
But playing Quade Cooper at the World Cup, to me, is like flipping a coin and seeing whether things turn out good or bad.
Will Quade’s brilliance seal a win in the quarter final or will things come undone?
Will Quade’s talent secure victory in the semi-final, or will a missed tackle send Australia home?
Can Quade’s mercurial nature bring back Bill to where he belongs, or will it be the reason why New Zealand wins their first World Cup since 1987?
Which Australian wants to bet the coin will come up good every single time?
My New Zealand buddy had a point. Things won’t go right with Cooper in every game, and it feels like a game of Russian roulette every time Cooper plays.