Quade Cooper woke up on Monday morning the toast of Australian rugby after a remarkable return to Test rugby ended with a stunning win over South Africa. Yet, despite his best efforts, he remains unable to call himself an Australian citizen.
Cooper, who was born in Auckland and still holds New Zealand citizenship, has lived in Australia since the age of 13. His residency makes him eligible for the Wallabies, and he made his 71st international appearance in Sunday’s game.
But Cooper had a recent application for Australian citizenship rejected, and after his star turn in the Rugby Championship match on the Gold Coast, Rugby Australia chief executive Hamish McLennan called for the government to rethink its stance.
“He has proudly served Australia well for over a decade,” McLennan said on Monday. “He deserves citizenship and I’ll do anything in my power to support this happening.
“He deserves a fair go. That’s the right, Australian thing to do.”
The deputy Labor Senate leader, Kristina Keneally, who has been advocating for Cooper – and other would-be Australian citizens – said on Monday the player’s passport “should match his jersey”.
Keneally met with the immigration minister, Alex Hawke, in early August to discuss Cooper’s situation and subsequently sent a letter, seen by Guardian Australia, asking Hawke to broaden pre-existing exemption requirements that would allow Cooper’s application to be granted. Hawke has been approached for comment.
Cooper, who had not played for the Wallabies since 2017, landed a conversion and kicked a perfect seven-from-seven penalties, including the match-winning effort after the siren, to guide his team to a memorable 28-26 win over the world champion Springboks.
It was a remarkable return for the 33-year-old following four years in the international wilderness, after he fell out of favour at the Queensland Reds and had a brief spell at the Melbourne Rebels before moving to Japan with Kintetsu Liners.
After Sunday’s game, he was asked whether his on-field heroics were likely to help in his efforts to gain citizenship. “Let’s hope so, fingers crossed,” he said on Stan Sport.
Former Wallabies player Drew Mitchell, who had accused the government of lacking common sense when Cooper complained on Twitter in July that a citizenship application had been rejected, again backed his former teammate after his dramatic, match-winning after-the-siren penalty.
Cooper appeared 14 times over three years for Australia’s under-20s and schoolboys teams before making his full Wallabies debut in 2008. He travelled on his New Zealand passport throughout his rugby career, which has included two World Cups and winning the 2011 Super Rugby championship with the Reds.
In 2016 it was revealed his lack of Australian citizenship had denied him a chance for selection with the Australian rugby sevens Olympic team for the Rio Games.