Cooper's heroics opens door to citizenship
SPOTLIGHT: Wallabies match-winner Quade Cooper has thanked his supporters for helping clear a path towards gaining Australian citizenship.
Returning to the Test fold for the first time in more than four years on Sunday, Cooper slotted a perfect eight-of-eight kicks including a long-range effort after the siren to beat South Africa 28-26.
His efforts only fuelled the public interest around the New Zealand-born Cooper’s pursuit of Australian citizenship after he revealed in July he’d been knocked back four times.
On cue, Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke announced on Tuesday there would be increased flexibility to “streamline the pathway to citizenship for some of our most talented prospective Australians”.
“The unique work and travel demands on some of our most highly distinguished prospective Australians should not preclude them from making the cut,” Hawke said.
“That’s why I have directed the Department of Home Affairs to apply greater flexibility in applying the residence requirement for eligible people.
“Exceptional people must not be prevented from becoming Australians because of the unique demands of the very work they do that makes them exceptional.”
Cooper moved to Australia as a 13-year-old, winning a Super Rugby title and playing more than 100 games in 11 years for the Queensland Reds and 70 Tests for Australia.
He played a season with the Melbourne Rebels before a stint in Japan, where his long-term occupation had been a hurdle to previous requests.
He said he had “hundreds of messages” to reply to on Tuesday and admitted “without playing that game [on Sunday] it may not have come to fruition”.
“I have to give my thanks to [Labor senator] Kristina Keneally and her office for going in to bat for me and the Australian public, who put a lot of pressure, and the media, on the government to take a look at not only my case [but others in a similar position],” Cooper said.
“It’s not over the line, but great to see the rule has been amended to make it a little easier for us.
“There would be countless others who’ve seen the news today and seen that little glimmer of hope.”
⏪ On repeat.
— Wallabies (@wallabies) September 13, 2021
The 33-year-old’s incredible return to the Test arena has now made it tough to recall fit-again No.10 James O’Connor for Saturday’s rematch with the Springboks in Brisbane.
O’Connor was coach Dave Rennie’s first-choice playmaker last year but hasn’t played in any of this year’s seven Tests because of neck and groin complaints.
Sean McMahon will join the squad on Tuesday as he seeks to play his first Test since 2017, the loose forward joining strike centre and fellow Japan-based star Samu Kerevi in the squad thanks to Rugby Australia’s relaxed eligibility rules.
Fellow centre Hunter Paisami, back with the squad after the birth of his child, will push for a spot but his Queensland Reds teammate Lukhan Salakaia-Loto won’t feature in the remainder of the Rugby Championship, due to COVID-19 logistics, after his camp exit on paternity leave.