Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Patrick McKendry: Cooper unpredictable as ever, even off field

Quade Cooper has not had a happy time at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images
Quade Cooper has not had a happy time at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images

Quade Cooper's unpredictability is why Robbie Deans has recalled him for tomorrow's Bledisloe Cup test at Eden Park.

Down one test and needing to win the next two against their old foe to win back the Bledisloe Cup, the Wallabies need a spark and the Reds playmaker is probably the best man to provide it. Certainly, he will be more dangerous than Berrick Barnes, who filled the role in Sydney.

For Cooper, however, the unorthodox decision-making doesn't stop on the playing field and the man from Tokoroa added to a long list of bizarre choices with his performance in Sydney before the team flew out for Auckland yesterday.

Standing in front of a scrum of reporters and photographers, Cooper read out a 26-word statement: "All I want to say is I'm back, I'm fit and healthy and I am ready to go and I will see everybody at Eden Park," before walking off Leichhardt Oval.

If Cooper's intention was to limit media attention before his return to Eden Park, a ground which for him holds many unhappy memories, he failed. It was a sign he is already feeling the pressure and he can expect things to get a lot worse - from the All Blacks, the New Zealand public and the media.

It is understood that Cooper's statement and refusal to answer journalists' questions came as a surprise to Australia's management, who would have been hoping for a controversy-free arrival into Auckland following the player's last entrance.

Almost 12 months ago he arrived for the World Cup to a storm following his apparent targeting of Richie McCaw in the just-completed Tri Nations. His actions included a knee to the prone All Blacks captain's head for which Cooper was cited but cleared.

On the face of it he revelled in his Public Enemy No1 tag, but away from the spotlight he must have wondered whether he was doing the right thing in toughing it out rather than showing a little more humility. It clearly affected him. His performance in the Wallabies' semifinal loss to the All Blacks was poor and the roasting from the Eden Park crowd was merciless.

That reception continued during Australia's next game - the narrow victory over Wales for third place - and stopped only when he suffered a serious knee injury. Many in the crowd applauded him from the field, perhaps out of guilt more than anything, as if their name-calling had somehow contributed to his painful downfall.

There is no doubt a more sensible approach for Cooper on his return to New Zealand would have been to go through the motions at the press call, saying he was looking forward to the challenge, and taken refuge in all the other cliches players employ to survive the part of the job they like the least.

But he's never been one to do the obvious, has Quade, and now the circus is back in town. Welcome back, cobber.


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Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby writer Patrick McKendry began his journalism career 20 years ago and has worked in newspapers in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. He worked in a communications role on his return here before joining APN before the 2011 World Cup.

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