Cooper: O'Connor must help himself
September 27, 2013
Quade Cooper knows what it takes to fight for a return to the Test arena © Getty Images
Quade Cooper has travelled the rocky road to redemption with the Wallabies and he says his exiled team-mate James O'Connor can do the same. The talented but troubled O'Connor was cut from the Wallabies' squad for their two-match Rugby Championship tour of South Africa and Argentina after a series of off-field indiscretions. He was also dumped by the Melbourne Rebels, leaving him without a Super Rugby side.
The same time last year, five-eighth Cooper was on the outer, labelling the Wallabies' environment as "toxic". The 25-year-old, in Cape Town for Australia's Test against the Springboks on Sunday (AEST), said he learned a lot about himself and what was best for the team before his recall under new coach Ewen McKenzie in July.
"For me, when I was out of the Wallabies, it was a great opportunity for me to look at my attitude and things I was doing wrong that might have been impacting on the team and also myself personally," Cooper said. "When I look at his situation, if you can take any sort of positive out of it, it's a time for him to get things right in his life away from football that are going to contribute to the team."
Cooper said the time away gave him perspective and he realised that his attitude hurt the team. He said his career at the Queensland Reds and nationally "felt rejuvenated".
"In my situation, it wasn't my behaviour, getting into trouble, and it was things I felt strongly about but I shouldn't have been acting that way towards the team with my attitude. You've got to think of the other players and people who put a lot of time and effort into it."
With the "Three Amigos" - himself, O'Connor and Kurtley Beale - at least temporarily disbanded, Cooper had grown close to other team-mates.
"I worked hard in my time away from the team so, when I came back, I was accepted by the other players. This is his (O'Connor's) opportunity to do that if he's given the second chance that he may need."
He hadn't spoken to his 23-year-old mate but hoped to see him back in Wallabies gold when he was ready.
"From a selfish point of view, you want those players in the team but you also want what's best for them. It's all about him working on getting back to a good position and not just taking him for his rugby ability. If things get worked out, it would be great to welcome him back."