MELBOURNE: Cooper’s Quade Wallabies Half Fly (Photo) hopes of acquiring Australian citizenship should finally materialize after a change in the eligibility rules for “the most talented potential” applicants.
Born in New Zealand, Cooper moved to Australia in his early teens and won 71 caps with the Wallabies, but his citizenship applications were repeatedly denied.
His starring role in the Wallabies’ 28-26 victory over world champions South Africa on Sunday sparked calls on social media for the government to grant citizenship to the 33-year-old.
And on Tuesday, Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said authorities had changed eligibility rules that would ease restrictions on applicants based abroad.
Cooper thanked local lawmaker Kristina Keneally, who expressed support for his citizenship application and lobbied Hawke to fix the issue.
“The Australian public has put a lot of pressure and the media has also put a lot of pressure on the government to look not only at my case but a lot of other people who are sort of in the same position,” he said. Cooper told reporters. during a video call Tuesday.
Cooper was playing rugby in Japan before being recently recalled to the Wallabies squad. He played his first test in four years on Sunday, scoring the winning penalty on a perfect night off the tee.
Cooper’s most recent request was rejected because he provided no evidence that he had “engaged in activities benefiting Australia,” the Home Office said.
Immigration Minister Hawke said the current criteria blocked the path to citizenship for deserving applicants.
“The unique work and travel demands of some of our most distinguished future Australians should not prevent them from making the cut,” he said.
Cooper had responded to his denials of citizenship with humor, posting his last rejection letter on social media in July.
However, he admitted that he was concerned at one point about his ability to return home to Australia as the country closed its borders amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It didn’t really affect me in any way, other than when I was obviously playing overseas in Japan,” he said.
“I (had) the situation in the world with Covid and people not being able to come and go as they please from their country of origin. And it’s a place where my family and I have lived for over 20 years.
“It was a pretty intimidating feeling.”
Local media have said Cooper could get citizenship as early as this week, which means he could sing the national anthem as an Australian on Saturday before facing the Springboks at Lang Park in Brisbane.
Cooper said he probably wouldn’t feel any different.
“I’ve always said there is more to being Australia than just a piece of paper.” – Reuters