Will Genia and Quade Cooper during their time together at the Queensland Reds.
Will Genia and Quade Cooper during their time together at the Queensland Reds.

Cooper ‘didn’t leave on bad terms’ with Reds fans

Not since Wendell Sailor was booed as a turncoat have Queensland rugby fans had feelings as strong as those that will swirl around Quade Cooper's return to Suncorp Stadium.

Sailor was angry and distracted when ambushed by the infamous "Wendell's a Wanker" chant in 2006 when he ran out in a NSW jersey after a footy life devoted to Queensland.

Sections of the crowd ripped into him and the winger gave it back with a fist pump on full-time that dripped with the "Up Yours" message he'd been copping all night.

The Queensland Rugby Union had heaped it on with a cheeky "Hello Sailor" marketing campaign that week which encouraged fans to give him heaps.

The Sailor night needs recalling because it gives context to the very different reception that will wash over Cooper at the same venue on Saturday night.

 

 

Rebels with a cause: Quade Cooper and Will Genia at their new Melbourne home.
Rebels with a cause: Quade Cooper and Will Genia at their new Melbourne home.

 

There'll be cheers for the Melbourne Rebels playmaker from many ironed-on Reds fans who never thought he should have been cold-shouldered out of the club last year.

They will far outweigh the playful hecklers.

It will be a reminder that many Reds fans never fell out of love with the enigmatic playmaker.

Brad Thorn did as was his right when wanting to run his team not Cooper's team.

Thorn may weirdly have done him a favour by banishing him to the suburban club grounds of Brisbane last year.

The re-energised Cooper leads Super Rugby for try assists (five) and some of his short and wide passing has been as good as at any time in his long career.

No one knows Cooper's game, moods and mojo better than halfback partner Will Genia, who was beside him for the Reds' 2011 title triumph at a packed Suncorp Stadium.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is interested in Cooper again but the big switch inside the 70-Test flyhalf has nothing to do with how he passes the footy.

"The big thing I've noticed is how happy Quade is," Genia said.

"Playing that season of club rugby with Souths was like a sabbatical, he rebuilt his body after some injury niggles and really just enjoyed it with the guys there.

"He's come out a better person for it because he also saw how the game he loves can be taken away from you so quickly.

"I'm seeing a degree of satisfaction in Quade that's different to before and part of that is how much value he adds to the Rebels players around him."

Halfback Genia is also playing his first game as an opposition player at Suncorp Stadium.

The pair poured over 200 games into the Reds jersey, both captained the state. This homecoming has meaning.

"It's going to be a bit strange going to the opposition dressing room for the first time but I can't wait to play this game," Genia said.

 

Quade Cooper “didn’t leave on bad terms with the Queensland public”.
Quade Cooper “didn’t leave on bad terms with the Queensland public”.

 

"I'm a Queenslander, this state will always be home for me, I still love the jersey and want to see the Reds do well.

"There's no conflicting feelings when I can be honest about that.

"I'm totally immersed in what we have at the Rebels, the really good people from top to bottom at the organisation and what we have to do for the club to succeed.

"There's nothing fake about the club.

"Quade didn't leave on bad terms with the Queensland public and the Reds fans either so we'll enjoy Saturday."

Cooper has niggled Thorn in tweets like this one: "Sometimes you are forced out of the place you love but thank god there's more than one place that loves me."

Cooper's vision and audacity are worshipped but his brain snaps have spawned an opposition camp as well.

Rebels coach Dave Wessels had heard many of the stories about Cooper and started sorting fact and urban myth when they first joined forces.

 

Quade Cooper is thriving in his new environment.
Quade Cooper is thriving in his new environment.

 

"I'd heard he was a bit of a maverick who goes off on his own but that's not my experience," Wessels said.

"He's been very positive and Quade is a good lesson not to judge a book by the cover you hear about."

The magic of the best Genia-Cooper moments on the field is that they do seem so spontaneous like the blindside Reece Hodge try off a scrum in Johannesburg recently.

Genia passed to Cooper, looped for the return pass and put Hodge over. Silky smooth.

"Yeah, we decided in a second that we'd go with that play set-up and we just understand how each of us want to receive the ball," Genia said.

It will be the 92nd running of the Cooper-Genia partnership at Super Rugby level on Saturday night and any true rugby lover will appreciate their rich highlights reel.

Reds defenders will have their hands full and just maybe the Wallabies' World Cup opponents in Japan will too against the enduring duo.