September 16, 2019 | News | No Comments
Their highlight as a halves pairing may have come nearly eight years ago when they helped the Reds to a Super Rugby title but Will Genia says he has never lowered his expectations of Quade Cooper as the pair head back to Suncorp Stadium to do battle with Queensland.
After being rested from the second leg of the Rebels’ tour of South Africa, Genia said he was “jumping out of my skin” to play this week.
And while he insists his sole focus is helping the Rebels bounce back after their winless South African tour, Genia knows the spotlight will be on his and Cooper’s return to their old stomping ground.
Genia made his return against the Reds in the opening round of Super Rugby last year.
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But he missed the Rebels’ game at Suncorp Stadium and while he insists it’s not a focus for him or Cooper, he understands the attention that will come their way.
“I played them here in round one last year and it was a really good contest, I missed out on the game at Suncorp last year but I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.
“It’s obviously a place that’s had really good memories for me on a personal level and being part of a winning Queensland Reds team but that chapter’s closed and it’s all about working hard this week to make sure that we get a result for this club and this organisation and the group.”
Genia remains popular in his home state and he believes Cooper will also receive a favourable reception from fans.
“At the end of the day he didn’t leave on bad terms with the Queensland public and the Reds fans,” he said of the mercurial flyhalf.
“His focus hasn’t been on what it’s going to be like and personal battles and who he’s coming up against.
“It’s just a case of him doing his job within our team to make sure we get a result so that we bounce back positively from our tour in South Africa.”
Unwanted by Reds coach Brad Thorn, Cooper played a full season of club rugby last year but has reignited his career with the Rebels, with his Super Rugby form surprising many given his sabbatical.
It came as no shock to Genia though.
“I hold him in pretty high regard. I never lowered my expectations in terms of what he brings to the game and a team on and off the field,” he said.
“I’ve just been so grateful to have the opportunity to play with him again and see the impact that he’s had on the group – not only on the field but off the field.
“He’s got so much knowledge and understanding of how to play the game and his impact on the field in terms of how we want to play – his communication, his organisation, he’s added so much value to the group.”
There’s no doubt Cooper would love to celebrate a win on Saturday but Genia said his mate had not had the date circled on the calendar.
“If it is something different, I haven’t noticed it,” he said of Cooper’s preparation for his Queensland return.
“He’s brought the same intensity, the same work ethic, the same qualities that he brings to each and every session every week.”
Having played with and against each other since they were 15-year-old schoolboys, Genia and Cooper know each other’s game inside out.
“It’s (a relationship) built on respect – he respects how I see the game, I respect how he sees the game.
“So if he makes a decision, I back it; if I make a decision, he backs it.
“And the nature of the way we want to play the game, a lot of the direction comes from the nine and 10, so I guess in term of that leadership, we try to drive the game and how we want to play.”
The clash against the Reds is looming as a good test given the similarities between the clubs’ playing styles.
“We probably play a similar brand of footy to be honest,” Genia said.
“They obviously have slight differences in the way they approach the game based on their personnel.
“But knowing (Reds attack coach) Jimmy Mackay having worked with him when I was at the Reds all those years ago, he likes to play an attacking brad of footy where they move the ball quickly and they play at pace.
“It was quite good to watch in patches when they played the Brumbies last week.”
The Rebels take on the Reds at Suncorp Stadium, on Saturday, March 30, at 7:45pm AEDT (6:45pm local), LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.