Dispelling the myths about Michael Hooper and leadership

Nicholas Bishop Columnist

By Nicholas Bishop, Nicholas Bishop is a Roar Expert

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    Who really knows what makes a good leader? How easy are they to identify?

    Take the case of Arthur Beetson in rugby league. At the time he was first appointed as Eastern Suburbs captain in 1974, no-one considered ‘meat-pie Artie’ a leader in anything other than the consumption of hamburgers. He was lazy and he was overweight and he was not a role model for any young player at his club.

    However, the new coach at the club that year, Jack Gibson, had just finished reading a book entitled Problem Athletes and how to Handle Them, written by a couple of sports psychologists based in San Jose, California – Bruce Ogilvie and Thomas Tutko.

    The book was popular among NFL coaches at the time (Gibson read it on the advice of San Francisco 49ers coach Dick Nolan) and contained a 190-point multiple-choice questionnaire designed to assess the psychological suitability of candidates for leadership roles within a sporting team.

    The test was a real mouthful – it was called the ‘Athletic Motivational Inventory’ but that quickly got reduced to ‘the Instrument’ by the coaches who used it. It was also a real mindful, measuring no less than eleven basic personality traits:

    • Drive
    • Self-confidence
    • Aggressiveness
    • Coachability
    • Determination
    • Emotional control
    • Conscientiousness
    • Trust
    • Responsibility
    • Leadership
    • Mental toughness

    In other words, it was similar to the research Spiro mentioned by Sam Walker in his recent column. The difference is that Ogilvie and Tutko’s work was far more practical and comprehensive, and it was utilised by active coaches working in the real world of sport.

    The questionnaire broke down personality structures and identified those most likely to succeed or lead, and Artie Beetson scored 100 per cent on it – a feat that had never been achieved previously anywhere in the world (even in America).

    So it was that a player never before considered as captaincy material became one of the great captains.

    In the world of modern professional rugby, the process has been taken on a few more notches, and coaches look for a core group of five or six leaders within the team. Between them, those players take care of particular areas within the side (such as scrum, lineout or defence) and take ownership of the playing direction on the field.

    I have no idea whether Michael Cheika uses ‘the Instrument’ or anything like it to make his selections, but when he announced Michael Hooper as Wallabies captain last week, it would have been in the full knowledge that leadership responsibility would be shared, and that captains are where you find them.

    Cheika has name-checked six individuals in his leadership group. This is how they line up against their All Black counterparts ahead of the first Bledisloe game on 19 August.

    Wallaby Leader All Black Leader Area Caps
    Michael Hooper Kieran Read Captain 68/100
    Allan Alaalatoa Owen Franks Scrum 12/94
    Adam Coleman Sam Whitelock Lineout 12/88
    Will Genia Aaron Smith Tactical direction 78/62
    Bernard Foley Beauden Barrett Tactical direction 45/53
    Samu Kerevi Ryan Crotty Defence 8/27

    The main difference is experience. The All Blacks average 71 caps to 37 caps in the Wallaby leadership group, and the discrepancy is most marked in the areas of set-piece and defence.

    The lack of experience in these areas could be a real concern – for example, if Allan Alaalatoa was indeed the scrum leader in the June game against Italy, then he (possibly along with Tatafu Polota-Nau) wasn’t able to fix the issues that arose in the course of a match where Australia conceded seven penalties and one yellow card in that one area – even if the problems didn’t occur on his side of the scrum.

    The Wallaby leadership group is young and untried and we will have to wait and see whether Cheika has discovered his own Artie Beetsons over the course of the next two seasons, leading up to the World Cup in Japan 2019.

    While Michael Hooper has it all to prove at the tip of that Australian leadership group – and as an interface with the referee – he has very little to prove as an openside flanker in the international arena.

    I took a look back at the Wallabies’ most challenging game in the June series, against Scotland, to check whether the most common myths about his playing style have any basis in fact.

    The most prominent among those criticisms is that Hooper tends to play wide, away from the centre of the action and lacks physicality in contact.

    Here are the results of that research in attack:

    Zone Midfield – between the 15s Midfield clean breaks Wide – outside 15m lines Wide clean breaks
    Hooper on attack 47 3 30 0

    And on defence:

    Zone Midfield – between the 15s Midfield turnovers/disruptions Wide – outside 15m lines Wide turnovers/disruptions
    Hooper on defence 63 2/1 10 0/2

    Sixty-one per cent of Hooper’s activity on attack, and 86 per cent of his involvements on defence, occur in the middle of the field. Moreover, all five of his significant involvements (three clean breaks and two turnovers in contact) went through the middle of the field. They did not occur out wide.

    If we break down Hooper’s involvement in the Australian attack, it becomes clear that his role varies, depending on where the Wallabies are on the field. In midfield – what is often called the ‘blue zone’ roughly between the two 40-metre lines – they open out their offence into the ‘1-3-3-1’ structure.

    This means that there are two pods of tight forwards plus one of the back-rowers operating in between the two 15-metre lines, with the other two back-row players split wide, one to either side of the field:

    In the first frame, Hooper is out on the right, in the second he is on the left with Scott Higginbotham shifting out towards the sideline. The tight forwards along with Ned Hanigan are grouped together in midfield to do the heavy ball-carrying, with Hooper and Higginbotham adding support to the ball when the movement goes wide.

    The same is not true of Hooper’s positioning when play is in the Wallaby ‘green zone’ in their own end, or the ‘red zone’ in their opponents’.

    In the area around the Australian 22, Michael Hooper moves into midfield to play with the forwards or become a one-off ball-carrier:

    In the first frame, Hooper has moved into a pod with Sam Carter and Tatafu Polota-Nau to become a ‘hard yards’ ball-carrier, in the second he is used as the decoy for a second man play between Bernard Foley and Karmichael Hunt. The third shot shows him breaking out from the back of a driving maul against loose Scottish fringe defence.

    Hooper also moves inside to play off either nine or ten when the Wallabies get close to the opposition 22-metre zone:

    Whether he is playing in the middle of a pod with two other forwards, off Will Genia or Bernard Foley, or on the pick and go from the base of the previous ruck, Michael Hooper is definitely not playing on the edge of the field – he is literally right in the thick of the action!

    On the defensive side of the ball, you often expect to find the most reliable tacklers at number seven and number 12.

    In several previous articles, Nathan Grey’s positioning of Michael Hooper in the ten channel from lineout has been highlighted. In general, Grey likes to have Hooper opposite the first receiver in order to have him shoot up and crush the passer:

    One of Hooper’s greatest assets is his ability to reload quickly and make multiple tackles within a short series of phases while tackling forwards and backs with equal facility.

    The second and third frames show him tackling two front-row forwards and flattening two backs on the ‘shoot’ in the other two. All four tackles occur within a total of five phases and the last ended with a turnover squeezed out of the pressure via a forward pass.

    In longer sequences, Grey will also have Hooper shoot up on the second receiver:

    Here, the pressure in the tackle forces a mistake out of Scotland second-rower Ben Toolis, who throws an uncontrolled pass back at Taylor, resulting in a knock forward and a scrum to Australia.

    Summary
    It’s hard to know where misconceptions, and the bigger myths built around them, really start. Often it can be something as simple as a player looking too small, or having the wrong kind of hairstyle, or originating from the wrong part of the country.

    Michael Hooper plays where, and how, the Wallabies’ systems on offence and defence require him to play, and his contributions to the cause have to be seen within that perspective.

    Most of the time, those systems require him to be in the middle part of the field, and he is very effective both as a ball-carrier and a defender in that position.

    Given his impact in the tackle, it is easy to see where the ideas of having him defend at ten from lineouts, and selecting David Pocock to jackal over the top of him from the same back-row, were born.

    Were Amanaki Mafi available from the Rebels at number eight, a back-row of Hooper, Mafi and Scott Fardy would be ideal for the Rugby Championship. But a choice of Lopeti Timani and Sean McMahon in the place of Mafi and Fardy is not too shabby at all.

    Leadership is another kettle of fish. There are Artie Beetsons out there waiting to be discovered, and they do not always have the habits we expect to see in a leader.

    The forthcoming Rugby Championship will tell us a lot about whether Michael Cheika mas made the right choices in such a youthful leadership group – and whether they will sustain the national side all the way to 2019.

    Nicholas Bishop
    Nicholas Bishop

    Nick Bishop has worked as a rugby analyst and advisor to Graham Henry (1999-2003), Mike Ruddock (2004-2005) and most recently Stuart Lancaster (2011-2015). He also worked on the 2001 British & Irish Lions tour to Australia and produced his first rugby book with Graham Henry at the end of the tour. Three more rugby books have followed, all of which of have either been nominated for or won national sports book awards. Nick's latest is a biography of Phil Larder, the first top Rugby League coach to successfully transfer over to Union, entitled The Iron Curtain. He is currently writing articles for The Roar and The Rugby Site, and working as a strategy consultant to Stuart Lancaster and the Leinster coaching staff for their European matches.

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    The Crowd Says (429)

    • August 9th 2017 @ 4:33am
      James22 said | August 9th 2017 @ 4:33am | ! Report

      Great article Nick! It is often hard to get a well rounded perspective on aus rugby from over here in Chile, so I always appreciate your work.

      • Columnist

        August 9th 2017 @ 4:37am
        Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 4:37am | ! Report

        Thanks James – it’s a benefit not having any particular provincial axes to grind, that’s for sure!

        • Roar Guru

          August 9th 2017 @ 9:10am
          PeterK said | August 9th 2017 @ 9:10am | ! Report

          also that you exhibit less confirmation bias and analyse what actually happens

          Too many focus on what they already believe and ignore actions that don’t fit as exceptions or don’t see them at all.

          • August 9th 2017 @ 12:05pm
            Lano said | August 9th 2017 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

            Cognitive dissonance PK!

          • August 9th 2017 @ 7:07pm
            Ruckin' Oaf said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:07pm | ! Report

            Yep BUT plenty of folk are gonna read this and say “the problem with Hooper is that he’s always bludgin’ in the backs instead of stickin’ his head in the ruck like a real 7, look at all the photos of him bludgin’ in the backs”

            • Columnist

              August 9th 2017 @ 7:10pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:10pm | ! Report

              Just the way the modern game is played RO 🙁

              • August 9th 2017 @ 9:31pm
                Ruckin' Oaf said | August 9th 2017 @ 9:31pm | ! Report

                Ahhhh but the modern commentator isn’t always the modern player.

          • August 10th 2017 @ 8:28am
            Drongo said | August 10th 2017 @ 8:28am | ! Report

            Our best players get criticised the most. Hooper, Folau, Pocock, Cooper, Genia. And our coach as well. And much of it come from posters who don’t have our best interests at heart. They don’t support Australian rugby or the Wallabies. They want to bring the reputations of our best players down.
            Articles like this dispel the myths perpetrated by these individuals. We now need one on Folau.

        • Roar Guru

          August 10th 2017 @ 1:18am
          jeznez said | August 10th 2017 @ 1:18am | ! Report

          Thanks Nick.

          I rate the guy (particularly in Pocock’s absence)

          His main issue for me is that he can be easily cleaned out when protecting attacking ball, can be a meerkat at scrum time and is less effective in slowing opposition Ball.

          Otherwise he is a defensive beast, carries phenomenally tight and wide, is a decent turnover merchant and is so fit and so fast that he turns up so many times in a match.

          I wish most of our squad had his ability and passion.

          • Columnist

            August 10th 2017 @ 1:54am
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 10th 2017 @ 1:54am | ! Report

            Hi Jez

            I’ve seen some improvement in his work over the ball in the last eighteen months or so, and it’s made him a more complete player (and let’s face it there are things he can do with ball in hand that other 7’s – bar maybe Ardie – can only dream about). There was one failed cleanout in the Scotland game (versus John Barclay) though not as many as his bigger B/R colleagues interestingly.

      • August 9th 2017 @ 5:05am
        Riddler said | August 9th 2017 @ 5:05am | ! Report

        James..

        Chile is a great place with some lovely, quality people.. enjoy your time there and in all of sth America for that matter…

        You lucky fella 😉

        • Columnist

          August 9th 2017 @ 5:08am
          Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 5:08am | ! Report

          The Roar must truly be going global!

        • August 9th 2017 @ 6:25am
          Fionn said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:25am | ! Report

          Don’t forget the quality Malbec, Riddler!

          (Now I’m just hoping that neither Carlos or Nobes see this and accuse me of doing preferring Chilean to Argentine Malbec ?).

          • Columnist

            August 9th 2017 @ 6:43am
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:43am | ! Report

            Argentine Malbec, now you’re talking 🙂

            • August 9th 2017 @ 6:48am
              riddler said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:48am | ! Report

              lads i am loyal to the local rioja..

              glass in hand as i my one finger mastery of typing take place..

              • Columnist

                August 9th 2017 @ 6:49am
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:49am | ! Report

                Cape pinotage too. yum.

              • August 9th 2017 @ 7:25am
                Fionn said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:25am | ! Report

                Aussie and Saffa Shiraz, NZ Pinot and Argentina Malbec are all that I need to be happy.

                Only tried a bit of rioja, Riddler, but liked it at the time. It seems I should perhaps go looking for some more so that I may truly make my mind up on it? 🙂

              • August 9th 2017 @ 7:36am
                riddler said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:36am | ! Report

                fionn.. you will not be disappointed.. some truly amazing wines here for 3 or 4 eurs..

                a life lesson from a very wise father of an ex once told me..

                give me a red, cheese and bread and i want for nothing..

                (he was french and they do all 3 of those things dam well..)

          • August 9th 2017 @ 7:09am
            James22 said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:09am | ! Report

            Ha ha yeah i love argentine Malbec but I think Australians don’t give Chilean wine enough credit. Vina Vik, Chadwick and Lapostolle are three of the most insane vineyards in the world.

        • August 9th 2017 @ 6:52am
          James22 said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:52am | ! Report

          Yeah it’s a great country with amazing landscape. The great value wine is definitely a bonus too 😉

        • August 9th 2017 @ 7:11am
          James22 said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:11am | ! Report

          Sry, double post.

      • Roar Guru

        August 9th 2017 @ 7:45am
        Nobrain said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:45am | ! Report

        I lost truck , for moment I thought I was reading Wine & Country, then I woke up and I am back in rugby.
        James, I enjoy Chile a lot. with a group of friends we have gone surfing since 1994 twice a year. Very good food and wine indeed. Enjoy.

        By the way great article of the unseen by the regular eye. Thanks NB.

        • Columnist

          August 9th 2017 @ 7:47am
          Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:47am | ! Report

          I think we should have a regular wine column on the Roar NB…. I would happily contribute to it – sampling as I went 😀

          • Roar Guru

            August 9th 2017 @ 8:42am
            Nobrain said | August 9th 2017 @ 8:42am | ! Report

            I think you will have to write in the right hand columns. I do not think there is enough budget for such enterprise.??

            • Columnist

              August 9th 2017 @ 3:39pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

              That would be fine too 🙂

          • August 9th 2017 @ 3:14pm
            cuw said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

            @ Nicholas Bishop

            talking of alcohol , it seems the england career of manu tuilagi seems to be all but over – after being thrown out of the training camp by Eddie Jones for being drunk !!!!

    • August 9th 2017 @ 5:04am
      Riddler said | August 9th 2017 @ 5:04am | ! Report

      Nick.

      Great job..

      Your efforts in putting substance/justifications to stats is first class.

      Please send ur cv to the qru .

      We have some severly overpaid players (that were meant to put bums on seats if you read back a year on this blog) that can have a very large pay cut to cover your salary. .

      Thanks for your time and efforts.. A real gem to read this one..

    • Columnist

      August 9th 2017 @ 5:08am
      Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 5:08am | ! Report

      We have some severely overpaid players (that were meant to put bums on seats if you read back a year on this blog) that can have a very large pay cut to cover your salary. .

      Thanks for the kind words Riddler – but I won’t be holding my breath! 😀

    • August 9th 2017 @ 5:30am
      John said | August 9th 2017 @ 5:30am | ! Report

      If we’re sharing geographic reach, then I’m sitting in my office in Connecticut enjoying your weekly musings – thanks for another excellent piece.

      I need to rant. A fellow journalist on this site last week wrote “Michael Hooper will never change”. That really got under my skin. Some of my comments were posted but one was not. This article is an excellent example of what rugby journalism should be – analysis based on facts, data and on-field performance as opposed to hunches and generalities. I am from Sydney – I am as disappointed by this year’s performance of the 5 Aussie franchises as everyone else. I have no bias toward Waratah players one way or another. I do not see why Grey is still Wallaby or Waratah defence coach (“defense can be easily fixed” will ring in my ears for years to come) and I do not believe Cheika has proven as good an international coach as he was at Leinster or NSW.

      However …. that has absolutely nothing to do with Hooper as a player or captain. We should base our views on performance and at the current rate they are all underperforming. I wish them the best and I thank you Nicholas for all your hard work.

      • Columnist

        August 9th 2017 @ 5:37am
        Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 5:37am | ! Report

        Great to know out-reach has also touched the USA!

        However …. that has absolutely nothing to do with Hooper as a player or captain. We should base our views on performance and at the current rate they are all underperforming.

        I tend to agree – Hooper’s performances have become more of a beacon of light in the darkness, so it is thoroughly ironic that he takes as much flak as he does.

        P.S. I prob benefit from the fact I’m not really a journalist, but actively involved in rugby as a planner/analyst! Keeps you abreast of how the game is changing and developing 🙂

        • Roar Guru

          August 9th 2017 @ 6:01am
          eagleJack said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:01am | ! Report

          Hey NB I agree with your “beacon of light in the darkness” comment regarding Hooper. I’ve often said if we had 23 blokes who cared as much, and put as much effort in as Hooper, perhaps we wouldn’t be in such a dire place.

          Instead the young bloke is bashed from pillar to post. It’s a shame that provincial biases means many can’t evaluate performances fairly. Sure, there are weaknesses in his game. But he has achieved so much in a short time, and being only 25, means that he will only get better from here.

          A family member of mine is Chairman of one of NZ’s Super franchises. He rates Hooper. As does the coaching staff, and players I’ve spoken to. It’s often nice to head over the ditch to get some balanced commentary on our players.

          As is reading another one of your excellent pieces.

          • Columnist

            August 9th 2017 @ 6:15am
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:15am | ! Report

            Sure, there are weaknesses in his game. But he has achieved so much in a short time, and being only 25, means that he will only get better from here.

            Exactly, it’s as if he’s been infected by the prevailing darkness EJ…! Not surprised MH is rated so highly by actual Kiwi selectors/coaches/players. He would be a big addition over there too 🙂

            • August 9th 2017 @ 12:27pm
              Perthstayer said | August 9th 2017 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

              Nick – Outside of your (excellent) analysis you have unintentionally shown me why some of the Hooper bashing exists.

              You say….”MH plays where, and how, the Wallabies’ systems on offence and defence require him to play,”

              It is because these very systems are not producing wins that people criticise him.

              If there were more wins, he would be shown more respect.

              • Columnist

                August 9th 2017 @ 3:40pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

                I would love to see Hooper operating in a NZ type attack for example PS – I’m sure he’d be very much at home in that kind of structure 🙂

              • August 9th 2017 @ 8:34pm
                cuw said | August 9th 2017 @ 8:34pm | ! Report

                @ Nicholas Bishop

                in management terms it is called SYNERGY – which some like to illustrate by saying ” 1 + 1 is more than 2 “.

                this was the case with Hill Back and Dalaglio – which at the time many said was the best 3rd row in the world.
                as a trio they wee more effective than they would be as individuals.

                later on i think NZ with Kaino Mccaw and Read achieved same sort of Synergy.

                the issue for Hooper or anyone else in that 3rd row is – it is not balanced and there is no synergy effect.

                so someone has to get the blame. fans tend to blame Hooper – while IMO the coach tends to blame certain players like Fardy and H’botham. 🙂

          • August 9th 2017 @ 9:00am
            jameswm said | August 9th 2017 @ 9:00am | ! Report

            EJ – I know someone whose family member is or was involved in coaching in Aust and NZ – and he said point blank the ABs rate Hooper as clearly our biggest threat.

            Yet he’s not rated by many in Australia.

            • Columnist

              August 9th 2017 @ 3:42pm
              Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:42pm | ! Report

              he said point blank the ABs rate Hooper as clearly our biggest threat.

              Back in 2012-2014 we always did more planning for Hooper and Folau than anyone else in the Australian side….

              • August 9th 2017 @ 7:24pm
                Ed said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:24pm | ! Report

                Nice insight. No Pocock in that time.

            • August 9th 2017 @ 6:40pm
              Stephen C said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:40pm | ! Report

              jameswm et al – whilst it’s true that Hooper cops a bit of flak, I think it is less about him being a bad player – clearly that is not the case – but more about him not being a typical Number 7. And by typical, I mean what Australia has become used to over the last 15 plus years – Pocock, Gill and Smith – over the ball turnover specialists.

              I personally think Hooper is an unbelievable player, but would dearly like to see him wreak havoc from the 50 or 60 minute mark. I believe he would be a match winner, much like Ardie Savea.

              The captaincy comments come from his lack of success in this area over the last couple of years, which may be unfair considering he captained the Waratahs to Super Rugby victory in Dave Dennis’ absence in 2014.

              The other point that most anti-Hooper types make is that his selection unbalances the backrow, forcing 6 or 8 to do the pilfering that he doesn’t do. Again, perhaps this is unfair given his use elsewhere, but it certainly highlighted by some of Cheika’s bizarre selections.

              I just want us to beat the All Blacks. Nothing else matters.

          • August 9th 2017 @ 9:09am
            rl said | August 9th 2017 @ 9:09am | ! Report

            + 1 here EJ. While I’m not the biggest Hooper fan, I absolutely agree that if the other members in the squad played with as much application and heart, we’d have no complaints.

            • August 9th 2017 @ 10:07am
              ScottD said | August 9th 2017 @ 10:07am | ! Report

              Totally agree. You can’t train heart and passion and he has plenty of both

        • August 9th 2017 @ 6:05am
          John said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:05am | ! Report

          To take this a step further …

          If I go on my own perception, I have more memories of Hooper making busts and running free in the backfield than of Pocock. Yet I don’t recall Reid breaking tackles – my memory of him is of getting the ball in space or running around opponents as opposed to through them. Does that man Hooper should be at 6, with Pocock at 7 when he returns together a big 8? Who knows. Who cares.

          Hansen has left Todd and Savea out of their squad. Fekitoa and Cruden haven’t been picked due to their leaving. Lousi and others perform better when they cross to NZ than they did here; I hope Toby Smith does too. Ioane couldn’t get a run with the Crusaders (was he injured?). Yet we complain about Hooper.

          On a different note – still ranting. I had a low opinion of Cooper a few years ago due to some transgressions but he calmed down. I thought Hooper was immature in an interview a few years ago but he seems more mature now with a few extra years under his belt. I still find that comment – “Michael Hooper will never change” – so very very annoying. I wish I was as perfect as the author.

          • Columnist

            August 9th 2017 @ 3:44pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

            “Michael Hooper will never change”

            Isn’t that part of the enjoyment in rugby, watching how people evolve and make themselves better players (and sometimes people too)? Not all do ofc, but Hooper is one I see improving.

            • August 9th 2017 @ 11:10pm
              John said | August 9th 2017 @ 11:10pm | ! Report

              Yes. Agreed. Thanks.

    • August 9th 2017 @ 5:41am
      Carlos the Argie said | August 9th 2017 @ 5:41am | ! Report

      Nick,
      Data? Who cares about data! Opinions are more interesting! Data can be “faked”! Opinions are always true.

      • Columnist

        August 9th 2017 @ 5:49am
        Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 5:49am | ! Report

        Of course, how silly of me C!

        • August 9th 2017 @ 3:31pm
          Buk said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:31pm | ! Report

          Brilliant Carlos, and about time someone castigated Nic for all his analysis and data.

          No Wallaby from the 1950’s in his right mind would ever have a haircut like that. And instead of all the energiser bunny running around, he should be stopping to pull up his sox, and making sure the thread is not spiralled.

        • August 9th 2017 @ 8:57pm
          Carlos the Argie said | August 9th 2017 @ 8:57pm | ! Report

          Hello from London! Very jet lagged.

          • Columnist

            August 10th 2017 @ 12:29am
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 10th 2017 @ 12:29am | ! Report

            Hi Carlos, hope you’re well!

            • August 10th 2017 @ 2:56am
              Carlos the Argie said | August 10th 2017 @ 2:56am | ! Report

              Jet lagged and wet. Very wet.

              • Columnist

                August 10th 2017 @ 4:21am
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 10th 2017 @ 4:21am | ! Report

                Yes, very wet at the Athletics WC tonight too…

              • August 10th 2017 @ 6:43am
                Carlos the Argie said | August 10th 2017 @ 6:43am | ! Report

                We will be at the track and field Friday and Saturday.

    • Roar Guru

      August 9th 2017 @ 5:49am
      taylorman said | August 9th 2017 @ 5:49am | ! Report

      Very nice Nick, is a mystery to me why fans are so down on Hooper so much, and clearly its largely because they dont know what theyre talking about or have such a bias its clouding their thinking.

      Thats the second article Ive seen of yours that clear up some misconceptions but back they go to the usual stuff.

      For me if Hooper is not lining up against the ABs the heart and soul of the side would be absent.

      Hes stuck with them through good and bad and has never given anything but 100%.

      • August 9th 2017 @ 6:18am
        AlwaysReadUpOnUsefulThings! said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:18am | ! Report

        No one doubts Hooper’s commitment. He’s amazing. There IS extreme doubt, however, about his core skillset as a specific 7. I would dump him for Pocock in a heartbeat, as both player AND captain, but each to their own.

        • Columnist

          August 9th 2017 @ 6:24am
          Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:24am | ! Report

          There IS extreme doubt, however, about his core skillset as a specific 7.

          There is extreme doubt about what precisely this is in the modern game – or what you believe it to be.

          David Pocock is undoubtedly one of the world’s leading 7’s, but I doubt his skill-set is now any more central to the position than Hooper’s.

          One thing Australia need much, much more of is the presence of experts over the tackle ball. Hooper and Hunt fought a lone battle on that front in June.

          • August 9th 2017 @ 6:59am
            AlwaysReadUpOnUsefulThings! said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:59am | ! Report

            ‘There is extreme doubt about what precisely this is in the modern game – or what you believe it to be.’

            WHAAAT?! The All-Blacks don’t seem to doubt what playing at 7 requires! It’s only here in Wallaby world where players play out of position, then perpetuate deficiencies of others, that we start imagining things are a ‘mystery’. If everyone played IN position, 7 would be no bigger mystery to any other position, and nothing/no-one would be constantly compromised. The All-Blacks seem to manage the ‘mystery of 7’ brilliantly, every game! As did Pocock, til he got moved to 8. Sorry Nick, I disagree entirely on this occasion.

            • Columnist

              August 9th 2017 @ 7:08am
              Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:08am | ! Report

              There is no mystery, but positional requirements are constantly in the process of subtle (and sometimes major) change. Does Dane Coles play hooker in the same way as Sean Fitzpatrick or Andrew Hore? Does Ardie Savea play 7 in the same way as anyone else in NZ?

              • Roar Guru

                August 9th 2017 @ 7:28am
                Joey Johns said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:28am | ! Report

                Dane Coles performs all of the core skills required of a Hooker to perfection.

                Then adds some delicious sauce to the best meat pie in the world.

                We’re comparing apples and oranges here.

              • Columnist

                August 9th 2017 @ 7:31am
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:31am | ! Report

                I wouldn’t say Coles’ scrummaging is perfect by any means, though his lineout throwing is vg. He can also be an average defender, so there is a trade-off involved.

                Ardie Savea is prob a better example of coaches having to weigh up potential changes to the concept of a position. So far they’ve preferred a more orthodox interpretation of 7 (Sam Cane) but that may not always be the case.

              • August 9th 2017 @ 8:51am
                Rebellion said | August 9th 2017 @ 8:51am | ! Report

                Sorry Nick but we will have to agree to disagree on this occassion.
                There is an obvious correlation to the team’s performance when Pocock is a starting 7 over Hooper.
                You can argue till you’re blue in the face about the modern 7 role but while the Wallabies don’t have a Bismarck type Hooker and Chieka won’t select Fardy – a lot of us know who we’d prefer to see at 7.
                Hooper is committed and at times flashy but Pocock has the ability to stamp his authority on a match against the very best sides in a way Hooper could only have a wet dream of.

                The time will come in the Roar when the Pulver/Chieka/Hooper axis will need to be examined for what it is

              • August 9th 2017 @ 7:14pm
                markie362 said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:14pm | ! Report

                Hoppers biggest problem is he doesn’t have any mongrel like say Grady.also hes no lineout jumper and gets blown away at rucks too easily

              • August 9th 2017 @ 7:44am
                Council said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:44am | ! Report

                Is this pie a Kiwi Steak n Cheese pie by any chance?

              • August 9th 2017 @ 7:50am
                Fionn said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:50am | ! Report

                NB, certain posters were saying I was being somewhat premature when I said that Marx, and not Coles, was my world 15 hooker. What’s your opinion on the subject?

              • August 9th 2017 @ 9:03am
                jameswm said | August 9th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

                It’s funny – McCaw was the master of the jackal at one point, then G SMith came along and went close to taking that mantle. McCaw saw the game and his role were changing, so expanded his skillset to linking, ball playing etc, with less focus on the tackle ball.

                He is praised as one of the best ever.

                Hooper does similar and is criticised for not performing his core role.

                I’m sorry – jackaling over the ball is not the main core role of a 7. And if it was – Hooper topped the turnover stats of all Aussie 7s in the Super season anyway.

                So what are we arguing about?

              • August 9th 2017 @ 9:16am
                Hannes said | August 9th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

                Marx is a very good player, but IMO has not stamped his authority at international level yet. Playing for a struggling Bok side is a challenge that makes it difficult for a hooker to stand out.

              • August 9th 2017 @ 9:51am
                Bakkies said | August 9th 2017 @ 9:51am | ! Report

                George Smith started his career before McCaw and also had other skills to his game. However he was always and still is one of the first to the breakdown. Hooper did that at the Brumbies but when he to the Tarts Cheika changed the way he plays the game.

            • August 9th 2017 @ 10:15am
              The Sheriff said | August 9th 2017 @ 10:15am | ! Report

              That said, who is the better 7. How and why can they go past Todd for Kane?
              By the way, another excellent analysis from Nick who probably would do well in Rod Kafer’s new role.

              • August 9th 2017 @ 3:22pm
                ClarkeG said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

                Becasue they don’t have room for 3 open side flankers. If so then Todd would be in the squad.

                Cane brings more physicality with his game and covers more than one position.

                Sam with Savea…covers more than one position.

                Seems they have plans for Todd later on perhaps.

                Points given by Steve Hansen yesterday.

              • Columnist

                August 9th 2017 @ 3:47pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:47pm | ! Report

                Sheriff, I suspect they see Matt Todd as an excellent provincial 7 who does not have the equipment to make the impact of a Cane or a Savea at international level – the games are very different.

              • August 9th 2017 @ 3:52pm
                cuw said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

                perhaps its no surprise that both Cane and Savea have played at 6 and 8 for Chiefs and Hurricanes during the super season , whereas Todd plays 7 always.

                but then to me Crusaders have two 7s in taufua and Todd 🙂 even their replacement Pete Samu is more or less a 7.

                will be interesting to see if Robertson will look for a real 6 / 8 for 2018. he got one in Douglas , who unfortunately went to europe midway….

              • August 9th 2017 @ 4:10pm
                ethan said | August 9th 2017 @ 4:10pm | ! Report

                Note to Rod – get Nick involved!

              • August 9th 2017 @ 9:36pm
                ClarkeG said | August 9th 2017 @ 9:36pm | ! Report

                Yes Cuw – as Hansen said Todd just plays in one position but I got the impression they plan to use him at some stage to manage player workload I think he was hinting at.

          • August 9th 2017 @ 8:28am
            stubs said | August 9th 2017 @ 8:28am | ! Report

            There is extreme doubt about what precisely this is in the modern game – or what you believe it to be.
            This!
            Much like Phil Waugh and George Smith did, Hooper is creating a new definition of what a #7 is/can be.

        • Roar Guru

          August 9th 2017 @ 9:54am
          Wal said | August 9th 2017 @ 9:54am | ! Report

          Personally, I think the doubt only comes up when you try and play both Pocock and Hooper. Individually they after very different but among the top 5 7 sevens in the world. Combined the back-row balance becomes an issue.

          • Columnist

            August 9th 2017 @ 3:48pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:48pm | ! Report

            Pocock and Hooper. Individually they after very different but among the top 5 7 sevens in the world.

            Spot on Wal.

          • August 9th 2017 @ 3:54pm
            cuw said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:54pm | ! Report

            who are ur top 5 ??

            • August 9th 2017 @ 6:38pm
              Rebellion said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:38pm | ! Report

              Top 5

              Pocock
              O’Brien
              Todd
              Cane
              Savea

              Nick – your argument for Hooper being selected and counter argument to a poor balance of the pack with him at 7 is that the skill set of his position has evolved. This argument doesn’t hold much water when there are no other forwards effective at being masterful over the ball in the pack. It’s a bit ridiculous throwing Fardy’s name up – Chieka has always hated him and kept him behind Mumm last year to add insult to injury.
              Without a fetcher or someone who can disrupt the breakdown – our backs have less time and space to operate with and our halves and centres not up to a level where they can create something out of nothing – especially when marked up from set piece.
              So we will rarely, if ever see the opportunity to counter attack unless there is a split opposition pass or intercept and most of our possession is under pressure.
              Sometimes 8 slides with Kaferesque diagrams can suffice for an argument but Hooper has played 50 tests and I know there is something wrong with our our pack when he starts.
              Take Pocock away from the 2015 tests and tell me you honestly believe our pack has been selected and performed as well as it could have with Hooper at 7. That is the question you should be asking

              • Columnist

                August 9th 2017 @ 6:56pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:56pm | ! Report

                This argument doesn’t hold much water when there are no other forwards effective at being masterful over the ball in the pack. It’s a bit ridiculous throwing Fardy’s name up – Chieka has always hated him and kept him behind Mumm last year to add insult to injury.

                Playing over the tackle ball is clearly a whole team responsibility these days, in some sides it is not even led by the guy with 7 on his back (e.g. England). These teams prove it is both possible and necessary to be effective in that area without having a specialist 7 of the sort you believe to be essential (Haskell/Robshaw)

                I clearly mentioned Fardy along with Amanaki Mafi as a fantasy 2017 Wallaby B/R simply as an example of balance in that unit.

                Sometimes 8 slides with Kaferesque diagrams can suffice for an argument but Hooper has played 50 tests and I know there is something wrong with our our pack when he starts.

                Rather patronising don’t you think? The idea is to take it a simplified representation of the research I put into my articles – but then maybe that doesn’t weigh in the balance against the self-evident ‘knowledge’ you refer to…. 🙂

              • August 9th 2017 @ 8:43pm
                Rebellion said | August 9th 2017 @ 8:43pm | ! Report

                So Nick,
                With Fardy or Mafi not in contention, can you realistically see the forward pack operating effectively as a unit, given none of the other players have consistently displayed skill over the tackle ball & not just this year but over several years?
                I mentioned earlier Andrew Ready looked like he had it in 2016 and Latu at times this year but across the board this is a skill that is missing and can’t be picked up overnight.

                I apologise for the patronising comment earlier. It’s frustrating trying to maintain belief in a national side which hasn’t represented the country or the code’s best interests for a long time now. I also think it’s important to apply the ‘if it looks like a duck’ approach to the forward’s ongoing poor performance at the breakdown. This added to the fact Chieka hasn’t bothered to mask his obvious selection bias throughout his Wallatah reign

              • Columnist

                August 10th 2017 @ 12:29am
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 10th 2017 @ 12:29am | ! Report

                I think that’s why McMahon’s presence is so important to the Wallaby B/R currently Reb. Put Timani in between SM and MH and bring along either Latu or Ready for the future, and you have the beginnings of a breakdown contest still need to find some backs to do it though!

            • Roar Guru

              August 10th 2017 @ 8:32am
              Wal said | August 10th 2017 @ 8:32am | ! Report

              7 has become a bit of a horses for courses role depending the rest of the team’s needs. Sam Cane performs his role with eh AB’s perfectly but most teams would probably pick Savea first.
              But that said in no particular order and based on my very scientific gut feel,
              Pocock
              O’Brien (having overtaken Warburton)
              Savea
              Hooper
              Cane

      • Columnist

        August 9th 2017 @ 6:18am
        Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:18am | ! Report

        Thats the second article Ive seen of yours that clear up some misconceptions but back they go to the usual stuff.

        For me if Hooper is not lining up against the ABs the heart and soul of the side would be absent.

        Agree entirely T-man. I’m not convinced it will do much good this time either!

        MH – at least to me – represents so much that is good about Australian rugby. He and Israel Folau in fact – though both are pilloried unmercifully.

        I know that EJ would snap him up for England in a heartbeat 🙂

        • August 9th 2017 @ 6:32am
          AlwaysReadUpOnUsefulThings! said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:32am | ! Report

          ‘I know that EJ would snap him up for England in a heartbeat’..

          You know that, Nicholas? How is that possible?

          I can’t imagine EJ would even consider MH, given the players currently at his disposal. Where does your certainty come from – have you spoken etc..? Genuine interest..

          • Columnist

            August 9th 2017 @ 6:42am
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:42am | ! Report

            Grapevine AROUT 🙂

            It’s why he’s looking at Tom Curry and Sam Underhill so closely – can’t go into the WC 2019 with two sixes like Robshaw and Haskell….

            • August 9th 2017 @ 6:51am
              riddler said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:51am | ! Report

              arout.. before you type.. do as your nom de plume suggests..

              nb’s actual background is better than all of ours put together i have no doubt..

              as for jone’s.. he definitely doesn’t want haskell/robshaw for 2019.. i will be bet my small shack that a certain player by the name of curry will be 7..

              • Columnist

                August 9th 2017 @ 7:09am
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:09am | ! Report

                A wise bet Riddler – he was great in Argentina….

              • August 9th 2017 @ 7:13am
                riddler said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:13am | ! Report

                nick he was brilliant.. came on for 20 odd minutes and got man of the match in the first test no?

                thoroughly humble guy, as is his brother by all accounts..

                but i do get weak kneed at great people, whatever their field, who are humble to their boots…

                it is my kryptonite..

              • August 9th 2017 @ 7:41am
                AlwaysReadUpOnUsefulThings! said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:41am | ! Report

                Riddler.. My “nom de plume” as you put it is actually ARUOUT, if you’d read it more precisely, and yes, I know all about Nick. What – so I can’t search for knowledge and ask an honest question of him? I suspected his answer anyway. Onward with the democracy!

              • August 9th 2017 @ 7:46am
                riddler said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:46am | ! Report

                arout..

                get those knickers out of a twist..

                there is no dictatorship here, unless cooper comes into the chat.. 😉

                nick’s background is at the elite level.. hence he mixes in those circles.. hence he would have those chats with those people..

                but if you want to throw your toys out of the pram and get snarky, have at it.. there is a group here on the roar that you will fit right in with..

                better you than me try and call out a guy who has his real name, foto and cv on display..

              • August 9th 2017 @ 8:12am
                StuM said | August 9th 2017 @ 8:12am | ! Report

                Lol AruOut.. still over Riddler’s head 😀

              • August 9th 2017 @ 8:17am
                riddler said | August 9th 2017 @ 8:17am | ! Report

                nah mate.. just can’t be bothered typing so many letters with my fat fingers..

              • Roar Rookie

                August 9th 2017 @ 11:38am
                tsuru said | August 9th 2017 @ 11:38am | ! Report

                Dear Mr AlwaysReadUpOnUsefulThings – apparently others couldn’t be bothered to point this out. So I will. Your nom de plume is AlwaysReadUpOnUsefulThings. The ARUOUT is, I guess, an acronym. I believe Mr Riddler was suggesting that you should “Always Read Up On Useful Things” – like Mr Bishop’s background.

              • August 9th 2017 @ 7:25pm
                markie362 said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:25pm | ! Report

                His background doesnt mean he is right.a lot of people hate Hooper and thats their decision

        • August 9th 2017 @ 8:30am
          Neil Back said | August 9th 2017 @ 8:30am | ! Report

          EJ snaps up anyone showing a bit extra. Hooper qualifies. He’s also prepared to test them and put them back on the shelf as quick. Hooper could likely qualify there too. It’s an interesting comment about not taking an out and out 7 (whatever that really means now or in two years time) to RWC 2019. You sense Jones is formulating a side that can be tweaked for style of play as required. It makes sense for him to develop talent like Curry – I wouldn’t take it as a given he’ll always play a player like Curry.

          Enjoyed your analysis as always but it did leave me still wondering why so many dislike his selection. It can’t be all about the history of hair flicking, which I’ll admit I can never quite forgive or forget. It would be interesting to make the same analysis you did for Hooper against other more ‘accepted’ and revered 7’s?

          • August 9th 2017 @ 8:34am
            Fionn said | August 9th 2017 @ 8:34am | ! Report

            I think, Neil, the primary reasons is the perception he is too small (this perception is enhanced due to the terrible hair) and, just as importantly, the whole Link-Beale fiasco.

            • August 9th 2017 @ 9:05am
              jameswm said | August 9th 2017 @ 9:05am | ! Report

              Fionn – what exactly is Hooper alleged to have done here? The only quote I saw is that he said he supports all officials.

              • August 9th 2017 @ 9:13am
                Fionn said | August 9th 2017 @ 9:13am | ! Report

                It is the opinion of some, James, that when Hooper came out and said that he backed Beale 100% that this, in effect, was an act of undermining Link.

                I’ve summarised it below if you care to read, but this incident alone, I think, will mean that Hooper will NEVER be universally liked in Australia.

              • Roar Guru

                August 9th 2017 @ 11:46am
                John R said | August 9th 2017 @ 11:46am | ! Report

                Well it’s pretty obvious that I’m a big fan of Hooper.

                But if people are basing their perception on a snipped quote, and that it ‘may’ indicate his intention to undermine his coach, then that leads me to think that those people WANT to believe that Hooper is a poor person. I mean come on, that’s a pretty weak thread to pull on.

                The truly neutral (i.e. pretty much everyone outside of Australia) doesn’t make connections on a thin out of context quote, and therefore appear to have no issue with Hooper.

                I mean, why would Hooper want Link out? Starting 7, and named as Vice Captain / Captain.

                Hooper would need to be a real piece of work to want to oust someone, that has ostensibly given him everything he could want out of his career, particularly at age 22.

                I just don’t see any motive whatsoever.

                But, we’ll likely never no for sure, so lines are drawn, and that’s just how it goes.

          • Columnist

            August 9th 2017 @ 3:53pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

            I have done some similar work on both Pocock and McMahon (albeit with #6 on his back) in the past for The Roar Neil.

            All three show how differently the position can be played. Also interesting re: what you mention about flexibility in he modern game. Sam Warburton went on the Lions tour with everyone thinking he would be the starting #7, but he ended up playing 6 and being one of the Lions’ main sources of lineout possession in the Tests!

            Who’d have thunk it ? 🙂

        • Roar Guru

          August 9th 2017 @ 9:18am
          PeterK said | August 9th 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

          NB – I don’t get it either

          the wallabies are strruggling yet the target are 2 of the best players regardless of whether they have good games or even great games

          There are players far more worthy of the vitriol that these 2 get

          Players who do less, make less positive contributions, and make more mistakes and yet escape the barbs.

          • August 9th 2017 @ 12:24pm
            soapit said | August 9th 2017 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

            honestly i dont think hooper is anywhere near the top of the pile wrt criticism (outside whether he should be captain).

          • Columnist

            August 9th 2017 @ 3:55pm
            Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:55pm | ! Report

            Even when Bob Dwyer bagged him last season, I think it was only to get out of him what he knew was waiting to come out. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Hooper quit, or fail to give 100% in a game.

            • August 9th 2017 @ 7:46pm
              Rebellion said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:46pm | ! Report

              Hooper’s 100% is admirable but his physical limitations render this at times to be absolutely meaningless beyond setting an example to his fellow players.
              He is just so easily swatted away from breakdowns and not bullocking enough for gaining yards in the tight channels like a McMahon or O’Brien
              If there was ever going to be the perfect player to trial as a hooker or centre – this is him.

              • Columnist

                August 9th 2017 @ 8:07pm
                Nicholas Bishop said | August 9th 2017 @ 8:07pm | ! Report

                Well, thanks at least for bringing back the topic of the article into as clear a focus as it could be brought!

                He is just so easily swatted away from breakdowns and not bullocking enough for gaining yards in the tight channels like a McMahon or O’Brien

                There are an entire swathe of players who are told in all contact/collision sports that they are ‘too small’. It didn’t stop, Neil Back, it didn’t stop Shane Williams, and it won’t stop Michael Hooper from proving them wrong.

              • August 9th 2017 @ 11:19pm
                John said | August 9th 2017 @ 11:19pm | ! Report

                If you believe Wikipedia, Hooper is one inch shorter than McMahon but 3 lbs heavier.

                Perception is reality. Go figure.

        • August 9th 2017 @ 9:18pm
          mzilikazi said | August 9th 2017 @ 9:18pm | ! Report

          “MH – at least to me – represents so much that is good about Australian rugby. He and Israel Folau in fact – though both are pilloried unmercifully.”

          Well said, Nic. Both MH and IF, are, IMO, world class players. The trick for the Australian coaching team is to utilise such players unique skills and strengths to the full. But I fear they will not.

          • August 9th 2017 @ 10:24pm
            Fionn said | August 9th 2017 @ 10:24pm | ! Report

            mzilikazi, you’re right.

            I think Australian rugby has always managed to punch above its weight through a few exceptional talented players rather than an entire team of very good ones… At the moment we have Hooper, Folau and Kerevi. Hopefully Genia finds some form and Coleman comes through. If that was to occur, who knows?

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