Quade Cooper may not have silenced the booing just yet, but his 100% goal kicking in the third Bledisloe Cup Test at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday night sure did lower the volume. The once wayward star who had become known more for one off-field comment that for his on-field performance showed in Dunedin how he has grown almost to the point of burying his demons against the All Blacks.
Ewen McKenzie has seen first-hand that growth, the Wallabies coach telling Rugby Heaven that Cooper has become a more relaxed and focused playmaker because has learned to cut out the white noise.
"The routine of week-to-week playing, knowing what his responsibilities are, knowing how he's going to play the game, all those things are fairly certain for him at the moment," McKenzie told Rugby Heaven. "That allows him to concentrate on the competitive part of it, which is what he likes; to win games, rather than worry about his injuries or off-field stuff. It's all been pretty straight forward."
McKenzie knows Cooper has a long way to go to reach the top, but he is prepared to give credit where credit is due.
"I've seen the 100% goal kicking, I've seen him manage a game, and I've seen him make try-saving tackles," McKenzie said. "Everyone likes to say 'he can't do this' and 'he can't do that' or 'because the crowd's booing he can't play'. Well it didn't seem to affect him [on Saturday], he just gets out there. Maybe he had the full gamut on display but I know what he's capable of doing."
Cooper was reluctant to talk after the match about his improvement, focusing on the team and the growing belief in the squad to continue building. "We have to stick tight together as a team and continue to build for something we're working hard at, which is being a world-class team," he said. "Those things don't happen overnight but we can see the end result and the closer we come as a team, when we play against the All Blacks and South Africa, the better we'll be in the long run."
Cooper said he did not enjoy the booing, but he had come to expect it. "When I'm at training I think about that so when I come out onto the field it doesn't surprise me."
And now he can manage his reaction to the sound, he can keep control of the game.
"Going out there in front of a tough crowd, against the best team in the world, and putting a few things together as a team and on a personal level is good moving forward," Cooper said. "It's all the hard work we're doing as a team and individually that's starting to pay off."