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Qantas Wallabies flanker and 2013 Super Rugby Player of the Year Michael Hooper has re-committed his future to the Australian Rugby Union and NSW Waratahs until at least the end of 2016.
The new three-year agreement makes Hooper the seventeenth player to re-sign with the ARU in 2013 and ensures he will continue to play a major role for the Qantas Wallabies through to the next Rugby World Cup and beyond.
“To have clarity over what I’ll be doing the next couple of years is great and I’m stoked to be staying in Australia and playing with the Waratahs,” Hooper said.
“Every time you play for Australia you are representing your country and your family, so it’s a huge honour to pull on the jersey. It is the pinnacle in our sport and the more you get to do it the better.
“You look at the guys who have played 50 and 100 games and they’re legends in our sport and in this country. Everyone is trying to strive towards that.
“There is also a really positive feeling within the group at the moment despite the result on the weekend not going our way. I really enjoy the way we are playing and it’s a very fun way to play the game.”
The importance of re-signing the young backrower was highlighted during the Qantas Wallabies opening Bledisloe Cup clash against the All Blacks with Hooper winning the team’s internal ‘Man of Gold’ award for best on ground.
His rise on the international stage commenced last year when Hooper played in all but two of Australia’s 15 games following his debut against Scotland, his standout campaign recognised with Rookie of the Year honours at the John Eales Medal Awards Ceremony.
The prestigious honour was his second in as many years with Hooper also walking away with the Australian Under 20 Player of the Year award following a stellar 2011 Junior World Championship in northern Italy.
Hooper’s game has gone from strength to strength as part of the resurgent NSW Waratahs in 2013 and he is expected to continue being a significant contributor in the Ewen McKenzie-led Qantas Wallabies line-up during both the Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship and Spring Tour.
“The job of the Australian Rugby Union and the provinces is to secure talent and Michael is a good example of an outstanding and consistent young player putting his hand up and coming to terms,” McKenzie said.
“I’m really pleased about that and it’s a good sign for Australian Rugby in the long haul. He is a guy who contributes every week and for example was players’ player on the weekend against the All Blacks.
“He makes things happen in a game and is the ideal player to keep around. We’ve got a bunch of young guys who are emerging on the scene but in terms of Hoops he is playing against the best players in the world and stands out.
“He clearly showed that on the weekend and was influential in all aspects of the game. He is a good example of a player who is accruing experience and the sky is the limit.”
Hooper was always destined to play international rugby since he was a schoolboy despite being denied a shot at the Australian Schools side due to shoulder surgery in his final year.
He was still snapped up by the Brumbies and slotted into the Brumby Runners development program in his first year out of school and after only being in Canberra for a few months was rewarded with his Super Rugby debut as an 18-year-old against the Chiefs in 2010.
He was then included in the Australian Under 20s for the first time later that year but had the misfortune to miss the World Championships in Argentina after injuring his ankle in a warm-up game prior to the team’s departure.
Hooper bounced back from that disappointment to provide one of the few positives in the Brumbies campaign in his second Super Rugby season, winning a second call up to the Australian Under-20s for the tournament.
Having had such a successful introduction to Test Rugby in 2012, Hooper was given the starting reins for the first two Tests against the British & Irish Lions earlier this year, before being moved to the bench by the return of Wallaby great George Smith.
So well did Hooper grasp his opportunity in 2012 that he was voted as the team’s ‘Man of Gold’ four times by his peers from the nine matches in which he started, while also winning the internal ‘Player of the Tour’ award for the four-Test Spring Tour.
Other players to re-sign with ARU this year include:
James Horwill, James Slipper, Rob Simmons, Liam Gill, Scott Higginbotham, Luke Burgess, Pat McCabe, Ben McCalman, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, Dave Dennis, Rob Horne, Sekope Kepu, Wycliff Palu, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Benn Robinson.
Wallaby Number: 859
Test Debut: 2012 v Scotland, Newcastle
Test Caps: 17
Super Rugby Team: NSW Waratahs 2013
Previous Teams: Brumbies 2010-12
Representative Honours: Australian Under 20s (2010-11) and Qantas Wallabies