Mentality key for Waratahs' development

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Waratahs captain Michael Hooper says they need to take the emotion out of Saturday’s final round clash with the Force.

The Force has made no secret of its emotional motivation this week, with club stalwart Matt Hodgson set to retire compounding an already rollercoaster year.

NSW will have its own dose of feeling on Saturday, farewelling Dean Mumm and Rob Horne in Perth but Hooper said they had to put that aside for the matchup.

“It’s literally taking that aside, is important for us, taking that emotion out of it,” he said.

“We’ve got our things going on as well, which is taking up all of our thoughts and things like that.

“It’s got to be on us us to be able to counter what they’re going to bring.”

Though they want to take out the off-field drivers this week, the Waratahs are working on improving their mindset in the longer term.

The Waratahs have introduced the services of a sports psychologist this season, something coach Daryl Gibson is committed to maintaining.

“It’s one of those things with sports psychology, when you’re under financial constraints, it’s usually the first thing that gets axed in a program and one that’s a luxury to have,” he said on Thursday.

“Certainly it’s one we’ve invested in - we’ve recognised the need for one and going forward it’s certainly going to be part of our program.”

Hooper has leaned on those services in his first season as sole captain, and said it was having a positive effect on the group.

“I can say personally it’s really helped myself in the leadership point of view, he’s been fantastic in doing what he doe there and from little whispers before we review other guys have felt the same way,” he said.

“I think the difference between the top teams and the bottom teams is psychological.

“A lot of the time we’re playing the same rugby, we’re trying to do the same things on the field, it’s just the team that is more committed to doing them better, it’s the team that wants to do it for longer that’s able to get the best results.

“I’ve got no doubt we’ve got the talent here, i don’t doubt we’ve got the talent next year, it’s about the guys having confidence within themselves to play the shape that we want to play and play the game that our coaches have put to us.”

Hooper said the playing squad had to go from simply satisfied with being in the team to pushing for the best.

“It’s got to push past the point of players who have come from this state, which we’ve had a lot of, (whether they are) just happy to be here or wanting to make something of their time here,” he said.

“That’s a switch that if we get right next year, we’ll go a long way to doing some good things in the comp and shaking the waves of NSW and that’s something I’m really excited about.”

The Waratahs take on the Force in Perth on Saturday night, kicking off at 5:45pm AWST, 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS or via RADIO.