Hooper doesn’t regret Waratahs switch
Wallaby flanker Michael Hooper is leaving the Brumbies for the floundering Waratahs next year, but he doesn’t regret the decision despite NSW’s horror 2012 Super Rugby season.
Hooper had a breakout year in the Australian capital, forcing his way into the Wallabies and earning rave reviews as the Brumbies led the Australian conference until the final round.
However, the 20-year old, who has spent three years at the Brumbies but hails from Sydney’s northern beaches, is looking forward to joining the Tahs.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for the Tahs,” Hooper says.
“I grew up in Sydney and my family’s there, it’s a great place. I love it and get back there as much as I can. The decision for me, going forward in footy and lifestyle-wise, it was the best decision and I’m looking forward to it.
“The good thing about the Tahs is that they’re always in the mix. It’s not been a great year, but they never have years when they win no games.”
It’s been a very tough season for the Waratahs. NSW won just four out of 16 games and finished 11th on the ladder, and the future of coach Michael Foley is still in doubt. The Tahs suffered injuries to several of their star players, crowd figures dropped and a player clean-out is now on the cards.
You could understand if he had thought twice about the switch.
However, he has made the move, and Hooper will be a welcome fresh face for NSW when they try and put 2012 behind them next season.
“Even when they’ve lost games by a point, they’re always a good strong team,” Hooper says. “So I think you can bank on that. They haven’t had a great season but I can worry about that next year and rip in, and hopefully (results) will be different next year.”
Hooper is one of the outstanding young talents in Australian rugby. A junior Australian rep, he got his first Wallaby cap off the bench against Scotland in Newcastle this year. The Manly Marlins junior learned from legendary openside George Smith in Canberra and his game has gone to another level this year.
Tough, fast, tenacious at the breakdown and with good ball skills, he is a good addition for the Tahs. With his brother Richard, a winger, a regular feature in Manly’s first-grade side, rugby runs strong in the Hooper family. Michael’s father played the game and as he holds an English passport, we should be happy that the loose forward chose to represent Australia rather than England.
Against Wales, Hooper was teamed with captain David Pocock late in games, as Robbie Deans employed two fetchers. This policy hasn’t been in vogue for the Wallabies since the days of Smith and Phil Waugh.
But with the importance of the breakdown, I wouldn’t be surprised to see both Hooper and Pocock, potentially the youngster’s replacement at the Brumbies, paired together at some point against the All Blacks and Springboks.