Australia’s government is ready to expedite Quade Cooper’s citizenship at the fifth attempt after he kicked the Wallabies to a memorable 28-26 win over world champions South Africa.
New Zealand-born Cooper, 33, pulled on the green and gold colours of his adopted nation for the first time since June 2017 in a man-of-the-match performance at Cbus Super Stadium on Sunday.
The former Queensland Red and Melbourne Rebel kicked eight kicks from as many attempts including seven penalties, the last of which was the game-decider after the buzzer.
Cooper’s attempts to gain Australian citizenship have been well-covered in recent months, and calls for his approval multiplied in the wake of his triumphant return to the national team.
And Australia’s Minister for Immigration, Alex Hawke, told reporters on Tuesday the current rules will be adjusted to allow for exceptions like Cooper’s: “The unique work and travel demands on some of our most highly distinguished prospective Australians should not preclude them from making the cut.
“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 has previously commented on how his touring schedule has affected his citizenship hopes, with applicants required to live in Australia and not be absent for more than 12 months in that window.
Currently plying his trade with Hanazono Kintetsu Liners in Japan, it was previously considered a decisive obstacle that Cooper’s rugby prospects lie outside Australia.
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The fly-half first moved to Australia at 13 and has spent the vast majority of his life there, with Sunday’s outing on the Gold Coast having been his 71st appearance for the Wallabies.
Cooper has seen his citizenship application rejected on four occasions, but his contribution towards beating the Springboks looks as though it will finally see his Australian status approved.
His successful return to the Wallabies setup could be the link required to push his plight across the line, suggesting the recent change may not have materialised without Sunday’s performance.
“First and foremost, I’d just like to give my thanks to [Senator] Kristina Keneally and her office for going into bat for me. And the Australian public,” Cooper said in reaction to the swell of support for his citizenship bid.
“The Australian public put a lot of pressure on the government not only in my case, but, a lot of other people that have fallen in the same position. It’s something that’s not over the line yet.
“It’s great to see the law and the rule amended to make it a little bit easier for us but the process is still ahead and until I get that, I will just continue to put my focus on football. But I’m truly grateful to the Senator Kristina Keneally, the Australian public and my teammates and obviously, our coaches, as well.
“Without playing that game, it may not have been able to come to fruition.”
In the wake of his latest Wallabies display, former Wallabies team-mate Drew Mitchell tweeted: "Surely that kick gets @QuadeCooper his Australian citizenship??!!"
Keneally was also in favour of the amendment that would allowed the rugby star to gain citizenship, telling reporters it was “a bloody great outcome for Quade and Australia.”
Cooper previously made an attempt to represent Australia sevens at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but his hopes were ended due to the fact he didn’t possess an Australian passport.
The country is grateful one isn’t required to play in the Rugby Championship, where the Wallabies are finally off the base of the standings following their first win of the tournament.
Head coach Dave Rennie gave a positive response when asked if Cooper could even be a part of the squad for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, when the playmaker will be 35.
Their narrow victory over South Africa was also enough to see Australia climb to fifth in World Rugby’s latest rankings, having previously dropped to an all-time joint-low of seventh.
Cooper looks nailed on to keep his place in Rennie’s XV when the Wallabies face the Springboks again on Sunday at Suncorp Stadium, hoping to book back-to-back wins.
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