Quade silences doubters with incredible statistic
QUADE Cooper has played a full match more than any of his Melbourne Rebels teammates in 2019.
That's not including the countless times the 31-year-old played his maiden match for his new club over and over in his head before restarting a rugby journey some had pencilled in as done.
Shunned by the Queensland Reds, despite being on a contract worth in excess of $600,000 last year, the one-time golden boy of the Wallabies looked lost to the game.
He has played 70 times for Australia, been to World Cups, won a Super Rugby title too with the Reds. If it did end, it was a career to savour.
But the Melbourne Rebels didn't think he was done. They banked on Cooper having a point to prove.
Through 10 games for Melbourne he's helped them to five wins and is now back in contention for a spot at this year's World Cup. Cooper has delivered more than the Rebels expected, and not just on the field.
He's played every match, and nearly every minute, 799 in fact.
Rebels number eight Isa Naisarani is next, with 712. That's 87 minutes less, a full game.
Cooper, who is also the Rebels leading scorer this season with 88 points conceded this week he was "fried" a couple of weeks ago, having felt the full force of the step up from club footy to Super Rugby.
But his management by the Rebels has been at the core of the team's program this year, because they know getting the best out of Cooper is key to getting the best out of the team.
"He just loves the game, he's a footy player and like a lot of the guys, they'd prefer to play four games a week than train four times a week," Rebels director of rugby Nick Ryan said of Cooper in the lead up tonight's must-win clash with the Reds.
"The training staff have been very savvy in handling him but at the same time he's a competitor, he's got great instincts and with his enthusiasm and competitiveness, sometimes we have to hold him back.
"He's pretty hungry to have a good one this weekend for a few reasons too."
Cooper did his best to put personal ambitions aside earlier this week.
"No matter who we play against, we are trying to get wins," he said.
But the Rebels know his treatment last year is not just driving him. It has helped shape him, as a player and a person.
In both ways, he has helped the Rebels towards trying to achieve coach Dave Wessels goal of being "the best version of ourselves."
"We certainly knew we were getting a pretty talented and motivated player with a point to prove. From that point of view what he has done hasn't surprised us," Ryan said.
"But what has been a real pleasant surprise has been his engagement around the club and other players, passing on his knowledge to them.
"He has been very authentic in the community. He has really grown to love Melbourne … those things have probably been a pleasant surprise.
"I think those aspects, apart from the on-field contributions, have made it a pretty good partnership."