Wallabies fly-half Quade Cooper welcomed immigration reforms that could ease his path to Australian citizenship, linking the changes to his last-gasp heroics against South Africa at the weekend.
New Zealand-born Cooper has been denied Australian citizenship four times, despite moving to the country as a teenager and playing 71 Tests for the Wallabies.
The situation, which Cooper has previously described as "awkward," was pushed into the spotlight when he earned Australia a thrilling win over the world champions Springboks on Sunday.
After four years in the international wilderness, Cooper nailed a 40-meter penalty after the hooter to seal a 28-26 Rugby Championship victory.
The 33-year-old believed his performance generated enough pressure to force officials in Canberra to change their stance.
"Probably without playing that game it wouldn't have come to fruition," he said in the wake of an announcement changing citizenship requirements for "exceptional" candidates.
He thanked members of the public and opposition lawmakers who campaigned on his behalf, saying he was keen to finalize the paperwork as soon as possible.
"I'll be truly grateful to get that sorted."
The problem arose because Cooper recently played two seasons in Japan, so under current rules he had been out of Australia for too long to qualify for citizenship.
Papua New Guinea-born Will Genia faced a similar situation, despite playing 110 Tests for Australia.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said yesterday he was making it easier for talented candidates to gain citizenship.
While he did not mention Cooper directly, Hawke said the reforms included easing the residency requirements that have hampered the player's application. The changes would apply to candidates including athletes, business leaders, scientists and distinguished artists.
Cooper said his move to seek citizenship was prompted by border restrictions imposed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rugby Australia chief executive Hamish McLennan welcomed the move, saying "if you play for this country, I think you deserve to get citizenship."