Stephen Moore: Michael Hooper was ‘courageous’ to step forward

Dylan Coetzee

Former Wallabies captain Stephen Moore said Michael Hooper was “courageous” for coming forward and admitting he needed to have a break.

Moore is Hooper’s predecessor for the Wallabies captaincy and understands the pressure on a player to lead a Test team, particularly for someone who has not had many injuries.

Plenty of rugby

Hooper has been ever-present for the Wallabies and Waratahs since bursting onto the scene and has well over 100 Test caps at the age of 30, captaining Australia in more than 60 of those games.

That extended period of constant rugby takes its toll on a player and Moore commended Hooper for coming forward.

“Having known Hoops and played a lot with him, I guess the load that he’s taken on, on and off the field, for a very long time, is pretty significant,” Moore told ESPN. “He’s put a lot into every time, he hasn’t had many injuries, so it’s been pretty constant for him, both at the Waratahs and also the Wallabies.

“I think the fact that he put his hand up and said he was not in the right place to be playing, that he needs a break, is certainly very courageous because we’ve all been there in those positions, and it’s not easy to put your hand up and say you need some time away from the game.

“So I think it’s courageous by him and let’s hope now he can get that time to recuperate and then get back on the field.”

Moore admits he relied on Hooper when he was captain and was fully prepared for him to take over the role after the former hooker sustained an injury in 2014.

“I relied on him a huge amount, there’s no doubt, and other guys in the team as well,” Moore said.

“And when I got injured [in 2014] and he took over, I was completely prepared for that to be it for me, just that short time, I would have certainly respected Cheik’s decision if he had decided to keep Hoops in the role, so that’s the kind of respect I’ve got for Hoops as a leader.

“But we also relied on him enormously as a player, his contribution on the field, as a captain when you’ve got players in your team who you can rely on like that, that’s a great feeling. And players like Pocock were in the same boat, when you just knew that they were going to front up and do their job really well, and that takes a lot of pressure off the whole team when you’ve got players like that.

“So there was the leadership contribution, and I would certainly use Hoops a lot and pick his brain on different things, and he made a huge contribution off the field.

“And I would never want to understate the way he’s played on the field; there’s often criticism around some of that stuff and I can just never understand it. If I think about the best players I’ve played with, he’s in that conversation, Hoops, his contribution to the Wallabies over such a long time has been absolutely massive.”

Harder to disconnect

Moore believes it is harder for players to disconnect in the modern era, with social media allowing pressure to reach players a lot easier due to its vast global exposure.

“It’s always a balance and finding the time you need to concentrate on your preparation, the training and mental preparation, but also finding the time to get away from the game; to go and play a game of golf or catch up for a coffee, or meet your family for dinner, and every player has a different approach,” he said.

“And I think it’s harder than ever now to get away from the game, we’ve just got so many different mediums where people can comment on things, give their assessment of the games. And there’s a lot of good about that but there’s also a lot of pitfalls there; there’s lot of touchpoints for people now to make comment on the games and performance and different views on this and that.

“So of course that impacts on players, you try your best to get away from it, but that stuff is also part of the landscape now and that wasn’t the case, even in my career early on, that’s stuff is all very live and relevant now.”

Moore disagrees with suggestions of a co-captain to alleviate some of the pressure from Hooper, claiming a leadership group should be the only support structure.

“I haven’t probably seen that work that well in my experience,” he said. “I think the captain’s role is very special and important, and Hoops has done a fine job and been there a long time now, so I don’t want to comment too much on what that all looks like going forward.

“But I think the best solution to that scenario is to have a really strong leadership group to support the captain, I’ve always thought that’s the best way to go, and any one of those leadership group members could be the captain on any given day, but I think you need one captain and that’s my view on it.”

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