Super Rugby Pacific: Veteran Michael Hooper eyes title charge with Waratahs

Dylan Coetzee
Michael Hooper carries for the Waratahs against the Highlanders in Super Rugby Pacific 2022.

Veteran Michael Hooper is determined to power the Waratahs back to their former glory by pushing for the Super Rugby Pacific title this season.

The Waratahs last won Super Rugby back in 2014, with Hooper leading the side to a fantastic title. However, since then, things have not gone the club’s way, but the team appears on the up after an improved first season under head coach Darren Coleman last season.

Title-winning mentality starts now

Hooper underlined the goals of the Waratahs, which is nothing short of winning the title and that mindset has already been integrated into pre-season.

“We’re confident, we’re ambitious as a team,” Hooper told Rugby Pass. “Every team wants to win the title. It’s no different for us. We want to be there at the end, the real point end of the season, so we know that the elements that go into that start now and have started in the pre-season.

“But it really starts now so we’ve got to do it.”

The great Wallaby flank commended Coleman’s approach and ability to extract as much as possible from his players through open feedback and time spent with the squad.

“He’s got a really good knack of getting the best out of each individual. He spends time with his players,” said Hooper.

“So when it comes to feedback, no one is off limits. It’s really direct. It’s not condescending or overly critical or overly personal. It’s more with the intention to get better.

“So that stems from the head coach and, in terms of a playing group, that’s what we strive to be, to be better each training session.

“If we’re doing that, and growing, even small gains over the course of the season turn out to be quite large.

“So it starts with here from the coaching class and then on to us as players.”

Tough start

The Waratahs return to the Allianz Stadium this season with a gruelling opening-round clash against the best-performing Australian side from last season, the Brumbies.

The superstar cannot wait to face quality opposition under the lights on Friday night.

“There’s no easing in,” he said.

“How exciting. Back at the stadium. The big lights come on, on Friday night so that’s where we want to be. It’s important to put in a good performance.

“We know it’s going to be a physical game, we’ve got a shape that we think we can impact the Brumbies really well with but, as always, they’ll be formidable.

“They’ll have a plan against us that they’ll want to roll out so it’s a great challenge to start our season with.”

Little insight on his future

Hooper was tight-lipped on his future and insists he is in good shape both mentally and physically for the upcoming season.

“When you get closer to the end, and you start to realise that it’s about the end, the body of my career, you move on to next week and next game, this or that season and there’s very little time to reflect,” Hooper said.

“There’s still a little time but you start to realise there’s less and less cracks at it.

“Physically, the guys have done a great job with everyone but I feel personally in good shape. Mentally, I’m extremely motivated this season coming up and give it my all.”

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