SYDNEY // There's one thing the New Zealand public fear more than losing the Rugby World Cup. It's Quade Cooper scoring the winning try in the last minute. Cooper, the Wallabies' mercurial play-maker, is Public Enemy No 1 in New Zealand.
Cooper, with his seemingly ridiculous dust-up with the All Blacks captain, Richie McCaw, has become a target of hate, the focus of all tension between the two sides. This is understandable. After all, McCaw is the country's favourite son, considerably more important than the prime minister.
All through the competition, the Kiwis have been saying: "Anyone but Australia". That is, if the All Blacks have to lose, please don't let Australia win. But New Zealand shouldn't fear this.
Quade was born in Tokoroa in Waikato. He's a New Zealander. If he plays well, New Zealanders should do what Australians do when they have talented Kiwis in their ranks - reclaim them as their own.
The Wallabies coach, Robbie Deans, is a Kiwi too. This is what happens in Australia. Talented New Zealanders are immediately appropriated and inculcated into the culture. Ask an Aussie if Russell Crowe, and the singers Neil Finn and Keith Urban are Australian and they will say yes. It's not so much ignorance as the fact that we couldn't care.
It's like a sibling rivalry. Australia is the big brother, a bit patronising towards his little brother, who has everything to prove. The Kiwis are the little brother, taken for granted and jealous of all the unearned attention his big brother receives. Little bro is going to beat his brother at every opportunity.
The one big myth is that rivalry between these two proud sporting nations is a deadly one. It's a complete furphy (translation: misconception).
I have never heard of an Aussie and a Kiwi getting in a fistfight over a sporting contest and I've watched numerous rugby encounters between both nations in Bondi pubs. The fact is: half of us are married to the other half and as I said before, we can't even tell the difference.
Here's my only beef against Kiwis: please grow up. You are not little brother any more but have equal status and authority. I can't tell you from me, so what's the big deal?
Let's both claim Quade, no matter how well he plays on the weekend. We can praise him together, or blame him together. It makes no difference. And if Australia should lose yet again to New Zealand on the weekend, I know who I will be supporting for the next one, bro.
Adam Courtenay writes for The Australian Financial Review and The Sydney Morning Herald