The Tokoroa turncoat, unjustly or not, has been labelled a traitor. Mistake No 1, he joined our closest rivals.
New Zealand's deep-seeded dislike for Quade Cooper stems from three reasons.
Firstly, he is a bloody true-blue Kiwi.
Dress it up anyway you like; Cooper is a Maori boy in a green and gold jersey. It doesn't look right.
He spent more than half of his 24 years in the Waikato and hails from the same timber town as Richard Kahui and Keven Mealamu. Come on, bro. Shunning that heritage isn't cool.
The Tokoroa turncoat, unjustly or not, has been labelled a traitor.
Mistake No 1, he joined our closest rivals and, in a rugby context, the enemy. Then again, he has no regrets, given Dan Carter and Aaron Cruden would have been blocking his path here.
The second point was his biggest, dumbest failure. Attacking All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw was brainless. The blatant cheap shots weren't one-offs, either.
Then, to top it off, Cooper challenged New Zealand fans by anointing himself “Public enemy No 1” during the World Cup. His arrogance was despised. Wallabies great Nick Farr-Jones called him a boofhead. On the money there, mate.
It didn't matter if Cooper played Russia or the All Blacks, the constant crowd backlash directly led to his complete disintegration.
That culminated in a semi-final thrashing, where former neighbour Kahui pummelled him into the turf. A busted knee in the third/fourth playoff summed up his disastrous “homecoming” tournament.
Cooper's reputation was, officially, in tatters.
So, some 10 months on, how would the 24-year-old be received and how would he handle returning to the scene of those nightmares?
He set the tone with a bizarre eight-second press conference, issuing a 24-word statement, merely stating he was “ready to go” - before scurrying off.
Of course, there would be nowhere to hide on Eden Park.
Some called Cooper's recall a hail-Mary move. Stepping up to spark the wobbly Wallabies was always going to be a tough, near-impossible ask.
If this disjointed Australian outfit haven't hit rock bottom, they are pretty close. The wolves are circling another transplanted Kiwi, Robbie Deans.
Last night, Cooper was greeted with the expected raspberries as he attempted clearance kicks, one of which he skied under no pressure.
He missed touch from a penalty kick, copped two crunching tackles from Kieran Read and his good mate, Sonny Bill Williams, and was stationed too deep in the pocket to ignite anything resembling a genuine threat.
Will Genia claimed this week Cooper would bring greater communication and organisation. There was no evidence of that.
There was no hint of flamboyance, no goose-steps or remote show of confidence from the “Queenslander”.
Cooper, by and large, went missing.
The aversion to tackling is still there. At least he now lines up in his rightful place, rather than being protected at the back as he was last year.
But, too be fair, that's been picky. Behind another beaten and bullied Wallabies forward pack, it is hard to vilify him, yet again.
It is hard to fathom where Cooper and Australia go to from here. Being held scoreless is just plain embarrassing. The dour styles and big brutal men of South Africa and Argentina do not bode well for Australia's prospects in the Rugby Championship.
Looking from the outside in, it appears the Wallabies are being told not to make mistakes rather than encouraged to express their individual talent and play what is in front of them.
Cooper will not succeed in that environment and his light-weight forward pack are doing him no favours.
New Zealand has not yet got over Cooper's deeds last year, but the country is a little more welcoming.
Maybe he could take a detour through home today and reconsider where it all went wrong. His path could have been so different.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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