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Cooper's reflections of a dummy past

Get ready: Queensland Reds' Quade Cooper prepares to pass the ball against the Brumbies earlier this month.

Get ready: Queensland Reds' Quade Cooper prepares to pass the ball against the Brumbies earlier this month. Photo: Getty Images

HE WENT from Australian rugby's hottest commodity to the sport's most hated figure in the space of 14 months. It is fair to say Quade Cooper knows a thing or two about the ups and downs of professional sport.

But success never comes with a promise to stick around and Cooper, a boxing match and a rugby game into his latest, hopeful comeback, has learnt that the hard way.

''The margins of success to failure are so small,'' he says. ''At the start of [2011] everything was just falling into place, whether [the Reds] were playing the best football one week to not very well the next week, we were still winning games because we were working so hard. From the success of the 2011 Super rugby season to the - I wouldn't say failure, but - to the 2011 World Cup, us not performing to our best and myself as well. That margin is so small, you can't let up for a second.''

The car park of a suburban shopping centre in Brisbane's southern suburbs is an unlikely place for reflection.

But here is Cooper, sitting in his car on a Thursday night, wondering into his phone why he said the things he did on live television towards the end of last year and whether he would have said them at all if he had not pushed his playing return so hard.

''I think to a degree they all coincided with each other,'' he says. ''When you're injured it's a very tough time emotionally, there are so many ups and downs with rehab and there's a lot of hard work and frustration that goes into it. A lot of things can add up and I guess it's just like anything in life, whatever your day job is, you can have a bad day in the office, a day when little things agitate you.''

Cooper had a bad few months. After the disaster of the World Cup campaign and the long road back from a serious knee injury, the Reds playmaker returned to the pitch last May to help salvage Queensland's season and get the team through to the finals.

In August he made it into the Wallabies squad for the Rugby Championship but lacklustre performances in three Tests culminated in another injury to his knee and more surgery in September. A little more than a week later came the now-infamous television interview, in which Cooper claimed the Wallabies were ''destroying'' him ''as a person and as a player''. The reaction was swift and overwhelmingly negative.

''I understand it, of course,'' he says. ''There's a lot of people, myself included, when I look back over some of the things I said in that interview, there's a lot of emotion and things that come across wrong and that I didn't necessarily mean but that came out in a way that was [wrong].''

A $60,000 fine, $20,000 of which was suspended on the condition he toes the line going forward, and an awkward public apology followed but Cooper ruled himself out of the Wallabies tour of Europe in November while his future in rugby hung in the balance.

Three months on, with a lucrative new two-year deal but no guarantees of Wallabies selection, Cooper knows he may never be able to heal the rift with those supporters who found the on-air tantrum was a bridge too far.

''I apologise to everybody that thought I was disregarding the Wallabies jumper, that I didn't want to play for the Wallabies,'' he says. ''I know a lot of people will never fully understand my reaction or fully forgive me for what I did but I've got to get on with life and continue to come back and play as good a [game of] football as I can and hopefully everything will look after itself if I do the right thing.''

Cooper continues mulling what he's learnt since being simultaneously booed and cheered by the Eden Park crowd as he limped off the field in Australia's final game of the World Cup 16 months ago.

A skipping rope on the back seat of his car is an obvious nod to his controversial new side project, boxing, but is also an important part of the five-eighth's renewed commitment to preparation, which includes knowing when to push and when to accept you're not ready.

''If I had my time over I would never have come back [to the Reds] so soon or when I did come back I wouldn't have played as much as I did because I just wasn't ready for it,'' he says.

Coming back from serious injury is the ultimate test of a quality athlete, balancing the time it takes to return to full physical and emotional strength against pressures from coaches, administrators and the athletes themselves.

As well as pushing his Super rugby return, Cooper now believes he might have been a ''liability'' for the Wallabies.

''The things I'm able to do, that are my abilities and the strengths I bring to the team, I just wasn't capable of doing those things,'' he says. ''I probably wouldn't have put my hand up to play because I feel like now I could have been a liability.''

Super Rugby 2015

Round 1
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CRU 10 vs REB 20 Report Stats
BRU 47 vs RED 3 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
LIO 8 vs HUR 22 Report Stats
BLU 18 vs CHF 23 Report Stats
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
SHA 29 vs CHT 35 Report Stats
BUL 17 vs STO 29 Report Stats
WAR 13 vs FOR 25 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Report Stats
REB 28 vs WAR 38 Report Stats
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
BUL 13 vs HUR 17 Report Stats
HIG 20 vs CRU 26 Report Stats
RED 18 vs FOR 6 Report Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
STO 27 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HIG 20 vs RED 13 Report Stats
FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHT 25 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
CHF 40 vs CRU 16 Stats
REB 15 vs BRU 20 Report Stats
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 43 vs SHA 35 Report Stats
LIO 19 vs STO 22 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF 17 vs HIG 20 Report Stats
BRU 27 vs FOR 15 Report Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
BLU 10 vs LIO 13 Report Stats
RED 5 vs WAR 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHT 20 vs BUL 39 Report Stats
STO 29 vs SHA 13 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 30 vs BLU 23 Report Stats
FOR 17 vs REB 21 Report Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU 34 vs LIO 6 Report Stats
HIG 26 vs WAR 19 Report Stats
RED vs BRU 29 Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
STO 19 vs CHF 28 Report Stats
CHT 10 vs SHA 27 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
HIG 13 vs HUR 20 Report Stats
REB 16 vs LIO 20 Report Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU 57 vs CHT 14 Report Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 25 vs FOR 24 Report Stats
SHA 12 vs CHF 11 Report Stats
WAR 28 vs BRU 13 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 36 vs REB 12 Report Stats
RED 17 vs LIO 18 Report Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF 37 vs CHT 27 Report Stats
HIG 39 vs STO 21 Report Stats
WAR 23 vs BLU 11 Report Stats
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
SHA 15 vs FOR 9 Report Stats
BUL 31 vs CRU 19 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
HUR 25 vs STO 20 Report Stats
REB 23 vs RED 15 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
CHF 23 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
BRU 20 vs CHT 3 Report Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
SHA 10 vs CRU 52 Report Stats
LIO 22 vs BUL 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BLU 16 vs BRU 14 Report Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 20 vs HIG 25 Report Stats
WAR 18 vs STO 32 Report Stats
FOR 15 vs CHT 24 Report Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO 23 vs SHA 21 Report Stats
BUL 43 vs RED 22 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 9 vs CHF 26 Report Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
HUR 24 vs WAR 29 Report Stats
HIG 30 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
BRU 8 vs REB 13 Report Stats
FOR 6 vs STO 13 Report Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
SHA 10 vs BUL 17 Report Stats
CHT 17 vs RED 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CHF 35 vs FOR 27 Report Stats
BRU 31 vs HIG 18 Report Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 29 vs BLU 15 Report Stats
WAR 18 vs REB 16 Report Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO 34 vs CHT 29 Report Stats
STO 15 vs BUL 13 Report Stats
RED 19 vs HUR 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
HIG 48 vs SHA 15 Report Stats
BRU 10 vs WAR 13 Report Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU 41 vs FOR 24 Report Stats
HUR 29 vs CRU 23 Report Stats
REB 16 vs CHF 15 Report Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT 25 vs STO 17 Report Stats
BUL 35 vs LIO 33 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU 58 vs RED 17 Report Stats
REB 42 vs BLU 22 Report Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR 32 vs SHA 24 Report Stats
FOR 18 vs WAR 11 Report Stats
LIO 28 vs HIG 23 Report Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
STO 25 vs BRU 24 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU 23 vs BUL 18 Report Stats
RED 46 vs REB 29 Report Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR 22 vs CHF 18 Report Stats
WAR 33 vs SHA 18 Report Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO 20 vs BRU 30 Report Stats
CHT 24 vs HIG 45 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
CHF 34 vs BUL 20 Report Stats
RED 14 vs SHA 21 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU 5 vs HUR 29 Report Stats
WAR 32 vs CRU 22 Report Stats
FOR 3 vs HIG 23 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT 17 vs LIO 40 Report Stats
STO 31 vs REB 15 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU 35 vs HUR 18 Report Stats
BRU 22 vs BUL 16 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
SHA 25 vs REB 21 Report Stats
HIG 36 vs CHF 9 Report Stats
FOR 10 vs RED 32 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
STO 42 vs CHT 12 Report Stats
LIO 27 vs WAR 22 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
HUR vs HIG 17:35McLean Park
FOR vs BRU 21:00nib Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
REB vs BUL 15:30AAMI
BLU vs CRU 17:35EP
RED vs CHF 19:40SS
CHT vs WAR 23:00FSS
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
STO vs LIO 01:05DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HIG 17:35EP
REB vs FOR 19:40AAMI
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
BRU vs CRU 15:30GIO Stadium
CHF vs HUR 17:35Yarrow Stadium
WAR vs RED 19:40AS
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
BUL vs CHT 01:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs STO 03:10Growthpoint Kings Park
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
View All Fixtures
Super Rugby 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Hurricanes 14 12 2 0 126 57
Stormers 14 10 4 0 72 43
Waratahs 14 9 5 0 45 42
Highlanders 14 10 4 0 116 48
Brumbies 14 8 6 0 108 42
Lions 15 9 6 0 -22 40
Chiefs 14 9 5 0 60 44
Bulls 14 7 7 0 23 36
View all
 
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