30th Sep 2012 10:26am | By Jahn Vannisselroy
Enigma. Mercurial. Plonker. Depending on which side of the Tasman you’re from, you’d probably use one of those terms to describe Australian rugby’s Quade Cooper.
Perhaps you’d use all three. The 24-year-old – by turns brilliant, suspect, sublime and thuggish – is a divisive figure for rugby fans.
The Tokoroa, New Zealand-born fly-half was in the media spotlight again last week after letting his fingers do the talking.
As is his wont, Cooper took to Twitter to criticise Australia’s set-up, stating he was only allowed to play his exciting natural game in Super Rugby for Queensland.
To top it all off, he then strongly insinuated he might join close friend Sonny Bill Williams in the NRL next season. “I don’t want to be involved in the toxic environment, and that’s how it is at the moment,” Cooper said of the Wallabies.
But his Queensland Reds chief executive Jim Carmichael hit out at Cooper’s use of the microblogging site, saying: “I’m fed up, to be honest. Quade is making silly comments that do damage to our code.”
And former Reds and Wallabies coach John Connolly said he suspected Cooper, currently out of the Wallabies squad due to a knee injury, had made his position in the national team untenable.
Seems like it’s just another crazy month for Cooper. So, in honour of this polarising figure, we’ve remembered some of his more controversial moments.
Cooper first hit headlines for the wrong reasons when he was accused of burglary in 2009. Police alleged a Gold Coast apartment leased by foreign students had its door kicked in before being relieved of a couple of laptops.
Cooper, who’d been boozing at a buck’s night, told police his memories of the evening were hazy.
There were suggestions he had been under the influence of Wallabies-approved sleeping pills, but this was strongly refuted by the up-and-coming star.
He pleaded not guilty and the charges were eventually dropped.
After earlier being disciplined for an altercation with a taxi driver and then fined for taking part in a St Trinian’s-like food fight at a team hotel, the Australian Rugby Union felt Cooper needed some help, so ordered him into counselling.
Cooper’s war with All Blacks captain Richie McCaw began in the 2010 Hong Kong Bledisloe Cup Test.
Mid-game, Cooper cleaned McCaw out of a ruck (legally), much to the NZ number seven’s displeasure.
Then, when James O’Connor plunged over for the Wallabies’ winning try late in the game, Cooper arrived on the scene to single McCaw out.
He shoved the prostrate All Black leader in the head as he tried to get up, and then delivered a tirade of abuse.
Fans figured it was a one-off, but the baiting continued into the 2011 Super 15 season. It came to a head that year in another Bledisloe Test, this one in Brisbane, when Cooper launched a well-directed knee into the face of McCaw, who was lying on his back.
New Zealand lock and enforcer Brad Thorn immediately tried to dispense some justice, but the Wallabies number 10 was protected by his forwards.
Despite the incident appearing to be deliberate to many, Cooper was cleared of any wrongdoing by a judiciary. With the World Cup looming, he was considered lucky.