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The Wallaby bromance

Date

Adam Ashley-Cooper and Drew Mitchell tell Georgina Robinson about their close and quirky friendship.

Katut and Rhonda … and their Balinese adventures shared on Instagram.

Katut and Rhonda … and their Balinese adventures shared on Instagram. Photo: Supplied

Georgina Robinson: How did your friendship start?

Adam Ashley-Cooper [AAC]: I think it was [the] 21s [team]. The 2004 tour to Scotland.

Drew Mitchell [DM]: In Glasgow. We were in the same team, played similar positions. In 2005 we both debuted for the Wallabies and from there our careers were pretty similarly aligned. How far do we go into it? I'm born one day before Adam, I'm the 799th and he's the 800th Wallaby - so one before him again - and both our mums' names [Karen] are spelt the same but pronounced differently.

AAC: I'm six-foot and he's five-11…

GR: But you're six kilograms heavier, Adam, according to your stats.

DM: He eats a bit more than me. Probably not as ripped. But we can't have everything, can we? Actually our mothers were the inspiration behind the Balinese photos [posted on Twitter of Mitchell and Ashley-Cooper dressed as prince and princess]. After the All Blacks game in Brisbane both our mothers were in the hotel and because we're moving in together again once we get home, our mums were joking about having to worry about us, so we saw an opportunity to have a photography session in Bali and send them on to our mothers.

AAC: And got the desired

response.

DM: It probably heightened their concern.

GR: Adam, what was your first impression of Drew when you met him?

AAC: I reckon you could sum Drew up in three letters: O-T-T. Everything he does is over the top … he's ''Too-Far Mitchell''. If you were to do anything that he didn't like he would go not one step but 12 steps further and end it then and there.

DM: Adam's probably summed up best with ''two cats''. If you've got one cat, he's always got two. If you're in the gym and you squat a certain weight, he'll make sure he has the coach's attention, put a little bit more weight on and do it a little bit better. Any story he's got, he's always that one cat extra. I've got one last name, he's got two. It's been ingrained from the start.

GR: Why are you both so flamboyant on social media?

DM: We don't use it as a tool for anything other than allowing people to see us for what we are away from training and footy. Some people might use social media as a tool to better their profile or their market value or whatever and we're both guys that have no qualms about taking the piss out of ourselves or each other. A lot of people only see us in newspapers when we're only training or talking serious stuff about footy. People might question some of the things we do but it's all in jest and never intended to offend anyone. If you can't laugh at yourself …

GR: Adam, what has it been like watching Drew battle injuries over the past two years?

AAC: Personally, it's hard for me to relate because I haven't had a long-term injury.

DM: Until this weekend.

AAC: Don't make me touch wood. The most I've been sidelined is six to eight weeks and as frustrating as that is I can't imagine what being out 12 to 24 months is like. Your strength of character is always tested through injury and how you respond and bounce back. To be told by a surgeon that you've got a 25 per cent chance of playing again … we've got a lot of friends and relatives [in the medical field] who were giving him honest feedback about his likelihood of returning and it wasn't pretty at all. So to see him to be able to put his boots back on again is amazing.

GR: What did you do for Drew in a practical sense?

AAC: He had just gotten back after the [2011] World Cup, when he did his hamstring. He'd missed the majority of the Super Rugby season, come back for a couple of games at the end, which was great - we thought he was making progress - and then injury struck [during the first Bledisloe Cup match] in New Zealand. He rang me after the doctor had given him the news and told me and I was just, ''Are you sweet?'', and he was: ''Yeah, I'm good. I'm just going to go home and sort my life out.'' And that was a cue to get to the bottle-o and buy him a six pack so I rocked up and we had a bit of a beer and spoke about opportunities and business ventures.

DM: ''Apply within.''

AAC: And that's something he's done for me. I've been in trouble - not rugby-related - over the last couple of years where there's been spikes of anxiety and stress and sure enough he's always there to knock on the door, whether it be with a six pack or something else, it's always good to sit down and chat it out.

GR: Drew, was it tough for you to watch your best mate and other teammates sail through while you were injured for that period?

DM: Not in the sense that I didn't want them to do that as such, but it was tough for me to put on a positive facade at times. Going in and training for the first 14 weeks of Super Rugby and knowing I wasn't having any involvement any time soon. The guys, although they weren't getting results, they had something else to look forward to in the short term and it was important in that environment at the time for everyone to be upbeat. That was probably the hardest thing for me. I'm generally an upbeat guy but that was one thing I found most difficult, to remain that way. Sometimes there was an element of relying on me to come up with a joke or break the tension and if I wasn't feeling that way I found that tough.

GR: You're both senior players in the back line. What would you tell a Test rookie?

AAC: Find your own balance and what works for you individually. You can only share so much as a senior player with young guys - they have to learn in their own time - but at the end of the day your preparation is your own. And balance is really important; it's something we've had to learn over the years and it takes a few years to learn that the balance off the field has a great impact on the balance you have on the field.

DM: The fact that we challenge each other on and off the field. The young guys see it and although they see us as really good mates, they also see us challenging one another professionally as well. The game side of things is completely separate to the friendship.

GR: You both have rich lives away from footy - is that something you always knew was important or you learned along the way?

DM: For me, it's something I had but didn't know the value of until I didn't have it. When I was at Queensland I had my mates around football and my girlfriend at the time so I'd go to training, then as soon as I'd get home I'd be away from it and have my own life. When I went to Perth I didn't have any of that; the only people I had was the guys I trained with all day, so we'd go home and socialise with them and live with them and that's all we had. I undervalued the support network I had in Queensland or the life outside football I had - and that I didn't have in Perth - and that had a significant impact on how I felt about staying and living in Perth.

AAC: I can break my career up into two bits. The first half when I was so rugby-focused and wanted to be where I am today and that's all I put everything into; and the other part is the back half, where I'm hanging on, making it last as long as I can. The hump would be around 25 or 26. For me, life outside the game puts it in perspective, it grounds you, and it maximises the time you have in the game. As much as we love it and it is everything for us and it won't last forever, it's just a game.

GR: What is something people don't know about the other?

DM: Not that it's that interesting but [Adam] is organised to the point of annoyance. Cleaning, organising, everything. We're going on a holiday together - surprise, surprise - at the end of this trip, we're going to go stay with Gits [Matt Giteau] and [Adam's] worrying about flights and connections and hotels and it's still 10 days away. He's stressing out about it and I'm more 'she'll be right' and if I ignore it for long enough he'll go and do it because that's the way he is.

AAC: I'm not as adventurous as Drew, and won't go to the extent that he does but he talks me into stuff. He's the guy at the pub when you're having a few beers and the next thing you know your name is being called to sing karaoke.

GR: Where will you both be in 20 years' time?

DM: Who knows. To be honest, outside of having a happy, healthy family I don't necessarily care about what else I'll be doing. I know I'll be enjoying myself at some point so I don't really let it stress me too much.

AAC: I have no idea. As well-planned as I am I can't plan that far ahead.

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