What’s the problem with Cooper?
I’ve been embarrassed by how New Zealanders have treated Wallaby first five-eighth Quade Cooper during the World Cup.
At first I thought it was all a bit of a joke, this joshing about Cooper.
But a United States rugby player last week told me he’d been shocked to have members of the New Zealand media ask his team to ‘‘get’’ Cooper when they played the Australians.
Then at Wellington Stadium I listened to the cacophony of boos every time Cooper touched the ball, and especially when he lined up kicks at goal.
What’s the problem? Are we so precious that we don’t like the way Cooper needles the All Blacks, and especially Richie McCaw?
The All Blacks are big enough and ugly enough to look out for themselves. They don’t need us to act like bovver boys in their defence.
If New Zealanders don’t like what Cooper does on the field, what would they have thought of some of the vituperative comments directed by Ian Chappell and company the way of Glenn Turner in the 1970s!
It’s not as if New Zealanders are lilywhite.
Sean Fitzpatrick, for example, always had plenty of advice for his opposite, Phil Kearns, and for any other Wallaby in earshot.
Or is it OK if we’re dishing it out, but not if we’re having to take it?
I respect Aussie sportsmen and women. They compete really well when the pressure is on and have a handy habit of winning close matches in the dying minutes. Not always, of course, but often.
But what I admire more is that generally Aussies are great winners and great losers.
Whether it’s tennis, golf, rugby union, league, track and field, netball or whatever, they generally have things in balance.
They compete ferociously hard, but once the game is over, they can discuss it maturely and there isn’t excessive gloating or sulking.
I can’t say that’s been my observation with every New Zealand sports star, though there has certainly been growing maturity in this area.
From my experience, we care a lot more about beating Australia than they do about us.
When I’ve been at Olympic Games or world champs, Aussie fans have always seemed delighted for their trans-Tasman neighbours’ successes.
That’s certainly how I feel about them.