Quade Cooper wins 2018 NRC Player of the Year award - Green and Gold Rugby
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Quade Cooper wins 2018 NRC Player of the Year award

Quade Cooper wins 2018 NRC Player of the Year award

It’s been a big couple of days for Quade Cooper.  Yesterday it was announced that he would be kick-starting his Super Rugby career by signing with the Melbourne Rebels. Today, as if to justify the Rebel’s decision, Cooper was named the National Rugby Championship Player of the Year for 2018.

To further add to the intrigue of the award, and indeed this last 24 hours, the man most likely to fill the Reds #10 jersey next year, Hamish Stewart, finished in second spot just a couple of points adrift. Such was the quality of talent on show this season, there was a logjam of talent coming in equal third including yet another gun pivot in the Drua’s Alivereti Veitokani.

Alongside the Fijian flyhalf were a couple of Force veterans in Ian Prior and Brynard Stander, while you Canberra Vikings centre Jordan Jackson-Hope also shared the third place podium.

It’s a remarkable story, the Quade Cooper NRC one.  When it became clear that Reds coach Brad Thorn wasn’t interested, Cooper famously applied himself to the club scene and helped direct Souths to the semi-finals.

What role he would play come the NRC was the cause of much sideline discussion. Clarrity seemed to be provided when City coach, Mick Heenan, declared that he would not be picking Cooper nor the equally banished Karmichael Hunt in his squad.  Contractual obligations came to the fore, however, as Rugby Australia stipulations meant both had to play.

After a shaky couple of starts, including disappointing losses to the Force in Round 1, at home, and then a thrashing by the Drua in Fiji, soon enough QC began to click. In fairness there was plenty of that old QC magic against the Force, while the Fiji game was all one way traffic.

Quade Cooper Kicks

Quade Cooper finished ahead of Hamish Stewart in their game and in the polling.

After that though, momentum shifted.  Maybe it was the positional shifts around him (the more conservative Scott Gale complimenting him at 9; Karmichael Hunt back in his preferred fullback jersey, the abrasive Tautalatasi Tasi coming into outside centre). Perhaps even it was a softer couple of games against the Sydney Rays and Melbourne Rising.

Cooper was at the centre of it all. He was bringing out the best in the solid clubmen such as Matt Gordon and Con Foley, while guiding some of the state’s new talent, in Fraser McReight and Matt Gicquel.

And he was catching the eye of the punter too.  Here are some of the snippets from the GAGR match reviews this season:

GoMelbrebels  -“Quade Cooper proved why he should be back in Super Rugby (and possibly the Wallabies) with good game control and pretty good place-kicking for the many sideline conversions.”

Me: – “…down in Adelaide Quade Cooper was exceptional as he guided his relatively inexperienced City side to an excellent come from behind win over the Rising.  Quade was at his beguiling best as he probed the Melbourne defence and directed his team around the park. A special treat for hungry South Australian rugby fans.”

Nick Wasiliev -“Again, it was the most senior player who proved the difference on the field, and that was Quade Cooper. His excellent controlling of the troops and his flawless day with the boot proved to be the difference between the sides, a difference that keeps City’s season alive.”

Me  -“it was Quade Cooper’s game management that was the key today. Superb skills, for sure, but the cool head throughout was game making.”

For me the award once again highlights the value of this competition.  What would Quade have been doing this last couple of months if it wasn’t for the NRC?  Perhaps snuck an extra week or two of club rugby, assuming the calendar stretches.  But would that have been enough to convince the Rebels to sign him? I’d suggest not.

So let’s praise the NRC for the pathways it provides for the likes of Jake Gordan, Taniela Tupou, Reece Hodge, Brandon Paenga-Amosa to go from club footy to test rugby.  Let’s love it for giving us a glimpse at the talent of some brilliant younsters. The likes of Esei Ha’angana, Tom Kibble, Harry Wilson and Tom Ross.  But let’s support it for the opportunities it provides our more experienced players to show they still have the ability to match it with the next generation.

NB: Rugby Australia’s NRC Player of the Year award was determined through the votes cast, after every match, but the Green and Gold Rugby match reviewer of the day.  Votes werw accumulated throughout the NRC Preliminary Rounds. 

Quade Cooper

Quade Cooper – 2018 NRC Player of the Year

Final Standings 2018 NRC Player of the Year:

1st 9pnts Quade Cooper Brisbane City
2nd 7pnts Hamish Stewart Queensland Country
3rd 6pnts Ian Prior Western Force
Brynard Stander Western Force
Jordan Jackson-Hope Canberra Vikings
Alivereti Veitokani Fiji Drua
7th 5pnts Frank Lomani Fiji Drua
Chris Alcock Western Force
9th 4pnts Karmichael Hunt Brisbane City
Matt Philip Melbourne Rising
Filipo Daugunu QLD Country

Previous Rugby Australia NRC Player of the Year winners were:

2014 – Sean McMahon (Melbourne Rising)

2015 – Jono Lance (NSW Country Eagles)

2016 – Irae Simone (Sydney Rays)

2017 – Caleb Timu (Queensland Country)

  • disqus_NMX

    Ha ha ha ha, OMG, this is just too good, what exquisite timing!

  • disqus_NMX

    That was confusing, for a minute there I thought this was awarded by RA, and almost fell off my chair. But now I see it’s a GAGR award, and all is normal.

    • RugbyReg

      GAGR writers did the voting but this is the official RA award.

      • Who?

        Watch out Reg – you’re inside the tent now, we’ll all have to put on our tin foil hats whenever an ‘official’ G&GR writer posts something in the comments. :-P

        • Nutta

          In the tent? Or inner sanctum?

        • Who?

          Inside the tent, I think you’ve got to drink more Kool-aid and promise not to give awards to out of favour players (especially those who aren’t Waratahs) before you can get into the inner sanctum. :-P

        • dru

          Bwahaha

          Mind you good to see GGR being treated seriously by the officials. Not EVERYTHING they do is poor.

        • dru

          Bwahaha

          Mind you good to see GGR being treated seriously by the officials. Not EVERYTHING they do is poor.

        • Bernie Chan

          Nah…gotta be in Fuxsports ( or surname Mitchell…) to be in the inner sanctum…

      • disqus_NMX

        Thanks Reg. Just wondering if RA are going to announce the award too, or if this article is it?

        • RugbyReg

          not sure. I’m not RA.

          They did produce and tweet the video in the article

    • GO THE Q REDS

      While a great result for Aus rugby… proving Quade Cooper is still a force to be reckoned with. .. .I have to admit an overwhelming sense of surprise knowing it was the Gagr team responsible for the vote. Quite a few times this year, including that distastefull article yesterday… I could swear there were honourable Gagr members basically sandbagging Quades performances to the public(those who didn’t watch themselves of course) perhaps we’ve kept you boys honest this year hey ;)
      Well written REG!

      • Slim 293

        No, that’s just your imagination…

      • disqus_NMX

        I think you’ll find that the GAGR writers are a bunch of individuals with individual opinions (and mostly volunteers at that), rather than one individual dictating the opinions. As you’ve noted, Ben Marczyk wrote his “One man’s view: Brad Thorn was right”, bagging out QC (but as the title suggests, it’s only one man’s view); and yet the GAGR writers collectively voted QC as player of the NRC.

        • GO THE Q REDS

          You missed my “quite a few times this year” comment. Ben’s article was not the only astonishing concept from the team this year.

  • Brumby Runner

    Reg, have loved your coverage of the NRC and the games on the whole have been first class viewing.

    But, as good as Quade has been, Veitekani should have won the vote by the length of the Flemington Straight. He was assuredly the stand out player in the whole comp.

    • RugbyReg

      I didn’t pick the winner. It was accumulated votes by four different people per round. It was chosen week by week. Not at the end of the season.

      As is often the case with these awards, some times dominant players in lessor teams win because there is less competition for points

      • Brumby Runner

        I appreciate that you were not the sole judge, and also that stand out players in weaker teams tend to score better, but I earnestly believe on a game by game basis, Veitekani stood out against his own team-mates and every opposition.

        If I were picking my team of the NRC, I would certainly have Veitekani in at 10 in preference to both Quade and Hamish.

        I’ll just put it all down to the vagaries of the voting system.

        • Xaviera

          I agree with you. I didn’t see every match they played, but I’ve seen a reasonable sample, including the Drua at VERY close hand, and Drua’s 10 has been in scintillating form. I reckon his run metres, line-breaks and try assists stats would be head and shoulders above anyone else in the competition.

          Interestingly, it’s Stewart v Veitekani in the final, and that reflects both the calibre of those two teams, but also how their 10s steer them around the paddock. There’s a lot to like about Stewart (he reminds me so much of Noddy) and I see him as Foley’s natural understudy (assuming KB and Toomua are 12s, or something else, rather than 10s). He’s not flash, but he’s effective, and the Wallaby environment would only improve him.

        • Gallagher

          I almost threw up when I read “Foley’s understudy”, please no, don’t let him train someone else with his mediocrity…

        • Brumby Runner

          In attack.

          Metres gained : Veitokani – 921 (1st);
          Cooper and Stewart not in the top five.

          Carries :
          Veitokani – 101 (3rd);
          Cooper and Stewart not in the top 5.

          Clean Breaks :
          Veitokani – 26 (1st);
          Cooper and Stewart not in the top 5.

          Defenders Beaten:
          Veitokani – 30 (=2nd);
          Cooper and Stewart not in the top 5.

          Offloads :
          Veitokani – 19 (1st);
          Cooper – 16 (2nd);
          Stewart not in the top 5.

          Kicks from hand :
          Stewart – 89 (1st);
          Cooper – 49 (3rd);
          Veitokani not in the top 5.

          Try Assists :
          Veitokani – 9 (=1st);
          Cooper – 8 (=3rd);
          Stewart not in the top 5.

          They say stats can be made to support any story, but I’d suggest from the above lists, Veitokani was a standout player of the tournament.

        • Xaviera

          Love your work – nice to have my gut feel supported by the stats. Makes the choice of recipient even more galling.

        • Who?

          The stats say that Veitokani was a ball runner. So I guess the question is, if it’s a choice between the three players, what do you want your 10 doing..? If I’m selecting, I’m not selecting my 10 for his ball running. I want him setting up his support players (which Veitokani’s clearly done, given his try assist and offload stats), not focusing on topping the tournament for run metres or even carries (I’m happy for my 10 to direct traffic).

        • Brumby Runner

          I get the point WHO, but how do you measure the input of the No 10 (usually the most influential team member to the team’s performance as a whole). Maybe by looking at the stats for the team as a whole?

          Tries :
          QldC – 54 (1st);
          Drua – 50 (2nd);
          BisbC – 31.

          Metres :
          Drua – 5759 (1st);
          QldC – 3495 (2nd);
          BrisC – 3053 (3rd).

          Carries, Offloads, Clean Breaks, all listed the Drua on top.

          By any measure the Drua are the most attacking side in the NRC and that is always to a large extent detyermined by the form and input of the No 10.

          When Vaitokani leads so many individual stats and the Drua lead almost all of the team stats, there is little room for debatin g the most effective No 10 and team imo.

        • Who?

          No question the Drua have dominated the tournament – and I’m not saying that Vaitokani’s not a top player. I’m just noting that stats aren’t always the easiest thing to use to compare players. If you looked at DC vs BB, I’d expect Beaudy would have WAY more run metres than Carter. Does that make him a better 10? Most would say that DC’s still the greatest. What it makes him is a different 10, not necessarily better or worse.
          In terms of being the most attacking team, that’s still determined by the platform delivered by the pack, and the Drua’s loose forwards are class. Whereas other clubs haven’t necessarily the same level. For example, I’m not sure you’d want to be playing 10 behind the Rays. But there’s a decent chance to have a red hot go behind the Vikings’ pack.
          The other thing to note… These awards? They’re like the Brownlow Medal. The standard joke around the AFL is that the Brownlow winner is almost never from a title winning team (2017 being an exception to that rule), because you can’t have a single player collecting all the votes each week – you’ve got to have a strong team, and a strong team will share the points around. So if you’ve got a team that’s got multiple performing players, it’s a lot harder for one of them to pick up a heap of points across the 7 rounds compared to a team like City, which really heavily relies on just a couple of key players. Effectively, winning player of the tournament like this isn’t saying you’re the best in your position, it’s saying you’re the MVP – the player whose loss would make the biggest difference to his team.

        • Brumby Runner

          Who, you’re magnifying this into a discussion much wider than the one I was making. I was simply commenting that Veitokani was the outstanding player in the NRC and I posted the official stats that addressed many of the attacking aspects of the competing No 10s after a request for that info.

          I don’t think the Rays or the Vikings are germane to the debate at all.

          My point is simply that Veitokani in my eyes had the best tournament and that all the stats tended to support that observation.

          I understood the voting was by only those persons doing the match reports. Are you suggesting there was a panel who issued votes after each game? I think if there was only a vote by the match reporter, there would be more likely to be vaguaries built into the system due to individual biases. etc.

        • Who?

          I got what you were saying – then there’s comments about the recipient being unworthy (choice of recipient being galling). I pointed out that there’s differences in playing styles, given all the comparisons you made were against the top two polling players, who happened to share a playing position. The implication being, “This bloke leads these two in these stats, therefore he’s a better player.” My point wasn’t, “Better,” it was different in a different role (i.e. same position, but played very differently).
          You’ve said that there’s no debate in most effective 10 and team. Crediting the 10 with all the attack. I’m pointing out that the most effective 10 could’ve been stuck behind a different pack, and suddenly another bloke appears to be the best 10. Especially when you’re rating it all off attack, and backs in attack need to be referenced against forwards. So if you stuck Veitokani behind the Rays’ pack, he may have looked ordinary. Similarly, if you’d put Hawera behind the Drua pack, he may well have performed less well than he did for the Vikings (given the Vikings had a strong pack). And an attacking pack doesn’t mean your 10 will thrive – one of Foley’s worst performances was the 2015 Bledisloe win, and one of Quade’s least impacting performances in 2011 was the Bledisloe win in Brisbane. That’s why I referenced the other teams.
          I’m not saying that Veitokani’s not had the outstanding season, I’m just pointing out that those consistently strong performances have also been in a team that’s been consistently strong across the board – as demonstrated by their results.
          I’ve not anywhere said that there was a panel, and I agree that the system is open to individual biases. Though that’s true of every voting system. If it’s 3-2-1 voting, it may be that Cooper won with 3 MOTM performances from favourable reviewers, and received no votes in the other 4 games, perhaps from reviewers who have inherent biases that way.
          But the important point is that the player of the tournament is an MVP arrangement. A Brownlow arrangement. And as such, a strong player in a weak team is more likely to shine than a strong player in a strong team, because his team mates will steal points. Maybe Veitokani played an ‘8’ every week, and that was the highest average score in the comp. But odds are, in a team as strong as the Drua, there was another player – a different player each week – scoring a 9, stealing points off him. And then not scoring in other weeks.
          That doesn’t make the recipient galling, it just shows the standard flaw with these sort of award systems. A better method for ‘player of the tournament’ would be to go through and do player rankings for the full teams each week, then work out who got the highest overall score. But who does that?!

        • Brumby Runner

          Just a couple of observations Who. If, as you say, it was a MVP type award, then I’d be most comfortable with arguing that without Veitokani, the Drua would have struggled to be at the top. Probably would have finished 3rd or 4th. Without Quade, City might have finished as low as 6th – they would not have finished below the two NSW sides imo. I think that dropping from 5th to 6th is a whole less of an impact than dropping from 1st to 3rd/4th.

          Then, as far as the forwards platform being concerned, Stewart had arguably the best forward pack in the comp, and where was he in all the measures of involvement? Topped the count for kicks from hand and not otherwise mentioned. The Drua, on the other hand, had a fairly ordinary set piece, often beaten in both scrums and lineout.

          Think you have brought in a few straw man arguments to try to diminish the obvious impacts the three No 10s had on their respective teams.

          Anyway, as I said at the outset, I am not disparaging Quade’s impact and form during the tournament. I just personally think that Veitokani had a massively better tournament than any other player, not just Quade.

        • Who?

          Totally agree with you about Stewart…
          I get you’re not trying to disparage Cooper’s form. I get that you’re saying that Veitokani was the outstanding player. I’m not trying to argue against that, I’m trying to explain why this sort of outcome often happens. It’s simply that one bloke got the votes more often than another bloke, and it was (arguably – as it often is) easier to garner regular votes when you’re a shining light in the bush than if you’re the same bright light shining in Kings Cross. Suddenly – even though you might still be the brightest light – you just don’t stand out as much, due to the lesser contrast.
          Look at the voting structures, that’s why I describe it as an MVP award, a Brownlow Medal type award. An award that’s not likely to be won by a player in a title winning teams (it’s not uncommon for Brownlow winners to miss finals), and an award more likely to be won (like the John Eales Medal) in a few key positions (7, 9, 10, 15 – it’s not going to be a regular thing to see the winner regularly wearing 1, 4, 11, 14).
          That doesn’t denigrate anyone else’s season, but it clearly explains why one player’s got the award and another hasn’t.

        • GO THE Q REDS

          A bit of context right here. …

        • GO THE Q REDS

          If you watched all the games guys you’ll remember Dozens of absolute done n dusted tries Quade set up on a platter only for his City team mates to squander. Very much impacted their whole season.
          As for Veitokani…….lets not forget he wasn’t played at 10 every game.

        • Geoffro

          Whats the latest statistics on Quade love.Definitely trending upwards I’d say.

        • Old_Laurentian

          With respect, I think game management is a key skill for any 10. It’s not a measurable statistic, but QC has it in spades.

        • RugbyReg
        • Brumby Runner

          Reg, I couldn’t have said it better if I’d been asked. It was a most worthy selection by the panel.

  • Gallagher

    Love to see a breakdown of the points from each round?

    • GO THE Q REDS

      Now that would be a good readwatch. I’m sure there will be more than a few coaches doing that anyways. …. Actually I’d be VERY interested in the defensive stats from these two players…… Especially Cooper of course. The last time public outragepressure of sorts demanded this the results blew the haters out of the water. Quade had better defensive stats than Sir Ritchie McCaw. 2015 rugby championship it may have been? If I’m not mistaken Quade was 3rd best of all players that played in that year period.
      I think that proves how public perception can be soooo utterly wrong.

  • Gallagher

    What an awesome highlights package for the year for Quade. I’d love to see a highlights package of 2nd place Stewart, and even 3rd place Veitokani?

  • Nutta

    Congratulations to QC. Sincerely, here’s hoping he goes on to play magnificent footy for the Rebs.

    • Old_Laurentian

      I’ll always buy a ticket to watch him, whoever he plays for .

  • Loving the QC trifecta of articles on GAGR!!!

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      He certainly has people polarised. I hope he goes well. I don’t think he’s the best 10 out there, well maybe here in Aus, but I just want someone to pressure Foley so he can either improve or piss off

      • Parker

        Whether they’re the best in the world or not, we need to pick the best 10 Australia has.

      • Parker

        Whether they’re the best in the world or not, we need to pick the best 10 Australia has.

      • Old_Laurentian

        Agree. QC is a very different 10 to Foley. I think QC’s game management stands out

    • Nutta

      It’s great to see an NRC player getting that sort of coverage

  • Bobas

    Rob Simmons from the Rays was robbed.

  • Jack

    Quade playing super rugby again is the only good Australian rugby news I’ve heard in ages. Well done on the NRC player of the year award too

  • sambo6

    BREAKING NEWS

    Brad Thorn to pull the boots on again and assume the role of Captain/Coach at the Queensland Reds. This arrangement has been agreed with the QRU Board for one match only against the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday 30th March.

    okay…nah….not happening….fill the bloody stadium though if it did…..

  • dru

    The polarisation around Quade is tough, I couldn’t comment yesterday. Today we’ll done Quade.

    Reg, in a vexed topic we’ll done again with your balanced approach.

    Importantly though, let’s not let the focus on Quade miss the achievements of others. Particularly Stewart who brings difference and Strength in the NRC. May it continue at the Reds in 2019.

  • dru

    The polarisation around Quade is tough, I couldn’t comment yesterday. Today we’ll done Quade.

    Reg, in a vexed topic we’ll done again with your balanced approach.

    Importantly though, let’s not let the focus on Quade miss the achievements of others. Particularly Stewart who brings difference and Strength in the NRC. May it continue at the Reds in 2019.

  • Geoffro

    No invitation to Robbie Deans world IV for Quade,well thats a surprise

  • Geoffro

    No invitation to Robbie Deans world IV for Quade,well thats a surprise

    • Slim 293

      I’m more surprised that Robbie Deans is coaching a four man rugby team…

      • Geoffro

        HAHA,smartarse :} better than coaching a 1 man rugby team aka David Pocock (and a number of gold clad hangers on)

  • Geoffro

    No invitation to Robbie Deans world IV for Quade,well thats a surprise

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@RugbyReg

The original prop in a prop's body, but thankfully I have the rugby mind of a prop as well.

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