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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.''

HuffPost Australia

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 35vs FJI 11 Report Stats
TGA 10vs GEO 17 Report Stats
IRE 50vs CAN 7 Report Stats
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 32vs JPN 34 Report Stats
FRA 32vs ITA 10 Report Stats
SAM 25vs USA 16 Report Stats
WAL 54vs URU 9 Report Stats
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 26vs ARG 16 Report Stats
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 45vs JPN 10 Report Stats
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 28vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 38vs ROM 11 Report Stats
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 58vs NAM 14 Report Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 54vs GEO 9 Report Stats
ITA 23vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 46vs SAM 6 Report Stats
ENG 25vs WAL 28 Report Stats
AUS 65vs URU 3 Report Stats
SCO 39vs USA 16 Report Stats
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 44vs ROM 10 Report Stats
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 35vs NAM 21 Report Stats
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 23vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 41vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 43vs GEO 10 Report Stats
SAM 5vs JPN 26 Report Stats
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 34vs SCO 16 Report Stats
ENG 13vs AUS 33 Report Stats
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 45vs TGA 16 Report Stats
IRE 16vs ITA 9 Report Stats
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 15vs ROM 17 Report Stats
FJI 47vs URU 15 Report Stats
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 64vs USA 0 Report Stats
NAM 16vs GEO 17 Stats
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 0vs TGA 0 06:00St James' Park
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 0vs SCO 0 00:30St James' Park
AUS 0vs WAL 0 02:45Twic
ENG 0vs URU 0 06:00Manch
ARG 0vs NAM 0 22:00Leicester City Stadium
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 0vs ROM 0 00:30Sand
FRA 0vs IRE 0 02:45MilS
USA 0vs JPN 0 06:00Kholm
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs RUpA 0 02:00Twic
WinC 0vs RUpD 0 06:00MilS
WinD 0vs RUpC 0 23:00MilS
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinA 0vs RUpB 0 02:00Twic
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF1 0vs WQF2 0 02:00Twic
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF3 0vs WQF4 0 03:00Twic
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 3 3 0 0 97 13
Wales 3 3 0 0 58 13
England 3 1 2 0 1 6
Fiji 4 1 3 0 -17 5
Uruguay 3 0 3 0 -139 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
South Africa 4 3 1 0 120 16
Scotland 3 2 1 0 40 10
Japan 3 2 1 0 -12 8
Samoa 3 1 2 0 -52 4
USA 3 0 3 0 -96 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
New Zealand 3 3 0 0 87 14
Argentina 3 2 1 0 64 10
Georgia 4 2 2 0 -70 8
Tonga 3 1 2 0 -22 6
Namibia 3 0 3 0 -59 1
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Ireland 3 3 0 0 84 14
France 3 3 0 0 72 14
Italy 3 1 2 0 -24 5
Romania 3 1 2 0 -59 4
Canada 4 0 4 0 -73 2
View all

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