Bap­tism of fire pays off

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - IAIN PAYTEN

MICHAEL Hooper says a tu­mul­tuous year as the Wal­la­bies’ youngest ever skip­per in 2014 helped him “come of age” and put him in good stead to take over from Stephen Moore again three years later.

As widely ex­pected, Hooper was named the new Wal­la­bies cap­tain fol­low­ing Moore’s de­ci­sion to step down last week, ahead of his re­tire­ment from Test rugby at the end of the year.

Hooper is any­thing but a “new” cap­tain, though, hav­ing led the Wal­la­bies on to the field as a stand- in skip­per 15 times al­ready.

In­deed, since he re­placed the newly ap­pointed but swiftly in­jured Moore five min­utes into the start of the 2014 sea­son, Hooper has been cap­tain of the Wal­la­bies more of­ten than not when wear­ing the gold jer­sey.

Of 39 Tests across the last four sea­sons, Hooper has started as cap­tain 15 times and count­ing up the time he’s as­sumed the role af­ter Moore was re­placed, stats show Hooper has led the Wal­la­bies for an­other 421 min­utes; or the equiv­a­lent of just over five more games.

But while cap­tain­ing the Wal­la­bies is not for­eign ter­ri­tory for Hooper, the 25- yearold is the first to ad­mit he has come a long way as a leader since the first week in charge in June 2014.

Ewen McKen­zie ap­pointed Hooper as a vice- cap­tain with an eye to the fu­ture but sud­denly he was the youngest ever Wal­la­bies cap­tain, won­der­ing how a 22- yearold could give or­ders to se­nior Wal­la­bies he’d long ad­mired.

“I very much felt like an in­terim cap­tain there. It was Steve’s team and then a week later it changed,” Hooper said.

“You do think about ( per­cep­tions). You have guys you look up to and guys who have been around for a long time, and it was my third year but re­ally only two years in the Wal­la­bies, so yeah, it was tough and you had to push your­self out of your com­fort zone.”

READY: New Aus­tralian Wal­la­bies cap­tain Michael Hooper at ANZ Sta­dium in Syd­ney.

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