Quade Cooper's citizenship fight helps force change to application process

It turns out that all Quade Cooper needed to do was kick 23 points, including a match-winning penalty after the siren, to at last earn Australian citizenship.

While Cooper's efforts against South Africa in the Rugby Championship appear to have forced a review of his individual application, it seems the impact of that performance has extended well beyond his own fight to become a fully-fledged Australian.

Alex Hawke, the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, on Tuesday announced the Federal Government would begin to streamline the pathway to citizenship for some of the "most talented prospective Australians".

"Australian citizenship is a rare privilege and it should not come easy. Those who apply must meet a range of character, values and language requirements. They must also have lived in Australia for a minimum period to be eligible," Hawk said.

"However, 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," he said.

While the change of policy is unlikely to be known as the "Cooper amendment", it's clear the Wallabies star's story has helped raise some key issues with the citizenship application.

The change in policy at Government level comes after Cooper had in mid-July taken to social media to detail his fight, revealing his latest attempt had been knocked back by administrative agent "Shannon" on the grounds that he did not satisfy any of the "special resident requirements" that would have seen him granted an exemption for living large portions of the past few years overseas.

However, it seems his man-of-the-match performance in Sunday night's dramatic 28-26 win over the Springboks, the lobbying of Labor Senator Kristina Keneally and ongoing pressure from the wider Australian public, has made it clear that Cooper had actually been "engaging in activities of benefit to Australia", which was one of reasons why his latest application had been knocked back.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Cooper's great mate and Wallabies centurion Will Genia is in a similar boat.

"First and foremost I'd just like to give my thanks to Kristina Keneally and her office for going into bat for me, and the Australian public...the media, yourselves, have put a lot of pressure on the government to look at not only my case, but a lot of other people that have fallen in the same position," Cooper said upon hearing of the planned changes on Tuesday.

"It's not something that's over the line yet, it's great to see that the law or the rule has been amended to make it a little bit easier for us. But the process is still ahead, so until I get that I'll just continue to focus on football.

"But again I'm truly grateful to Senator Kristina Keneally, the Australian public and my teammates, and obviously our coaches as well because probably without playing that game it may not have been able to come to fruition."

While Cooper appears to have at last won his off-field fight, the question of how Dave Rennie uses the 33-year-old playmaker moving forward through the rest of the year, and possibly beyond, is still up for speculation.

Rennie has been glowing in his praise of Cooper since the 33-year-old first rejoined the Wallabies in late July, and at last rewarded the Queenslander with a start against the Springboks on the Gold Coast.

But the Wallabies remain committed to developing Noah Lolesio in the longer term, particularly as it was only two months ago that the young Brumbies fly-half produced similar heroics to Cooper to lead the Wallabies past France in the third Test in Brisbane.

James O'Connor, meanwhile, has finally recovered from a groin injury. But the Reds No. 10 hasn't played since the halfway point of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, meaning he is without a run in over three months.

Certainly Cooper looks to have done enough to retain the No. 10 jersey for Saturday's second Test against the Springboks, this time in Brisbane, with O'Connor perhaps looming as a bench option as he works his way back to full match fitness.

That would afford Lolesio another week to, as Rennie put it last week, watch "a lot of footy...so when he goes into games he's got a really good understanding of where kicking space is potentially and then confirming that on the field", before the young Brumbies playmaker could potentially make a return against the Pumas in the closing two weeks of the Rugby Championship.

The way Cooper controlled the game in Brisbane, never overplaying his hand like he had previously early in his Test career is unlikely to have been lost on Lolesio. And, as Cooper sees it, the trio can continue to growth together as teammates, sharing their own individual experiences for the wider personal and team benefits.

"From the moment you wake up, the ability to have things set up that allow you to grow, surround yourself with the people that are going to uplift you, that are going to challenge you. And I think that's the great thing, even for myself, being able to have the opportunity to come into this environment," Cooper explained of his daily mindset.

"You've got players, great young players; Noah, being able to train with him, continue to push each other to learn and grow. Being able to have those conversations with him through the week about his game, about where he is as a man, some of the lessons and life lessons that I've been able to go through, to be able to shed some light on some of those. And for him to be able to get to know me better as a person and as a man.

"So I think that when you look at it like that, the growth that we all have as men, as players, and the games [will] be part of that journey as well. We can really aim to, obviously the goal is to win every game, but if we grow as people and as a men and as a team, that stuff is just going to happen along that journey."

Whatever the case, Cooper has likely done enough to keep himself with the Wallabies through the remainder of their 2021 campaign before he returns to Japan for next year's season with Kintetsu Liners.

That could mean he sings the national anthem in the Wallabies jersey as many as seven more times this season, though he says his likely citizenship approval won't have him blasting out Advance Australia Fair with any more gusto.

"I've said it all along, there's more to being Australian than just a piece of paper. I think that standing out there with my brothers, standing out there with your family in the stands, in your country, at home home, there's so much more that goes into it than just a piece of paper.

"So I don't think I feel any different, I'll be truly grateful to have that sorted. But again, that's out of my control. The things that I can control is how I am each day, the example I set between these four walls to my teammates, to the coaches and to anybody aspiring to represent Australia in the future."