Wallabies flanker Michael Hooper recalls the first day he met Stephen Moore, a man who has left an indelible mark on the NSW captain likely to succeed him as Test skipper.
Back then they were both Brumbies, Hooper just beginning his Super Rugby career, Moore an already an established Wallaby, and the 25-year-old recalls their first encounter pretty clearly.
“I remember thinking he was a lot bigger than I thought he was,” he told RUGBY.com.au.
“When you’re young, you’re far removed from a lot of the things that go on behind the scenes, you start to work out some of the influences he’s had across his career behind the scenes and the work he’s (done) there as far as helping players out across the country has been huge.“Back in those days I just remember thinking how big he was and he was an angry man, maybe in his younger days, around training and getting the results for the team, particularly in forwards and scrummaging.”
Moore has mellowed out since those days.
He is now a father and a sounding board for his teammates.
“Certainly in the last couple of years, (he has) mellowed out a lot and he’s become that real stalwart, that real pillar of knowledge, a guy who just casts his shadow across the team and a great shadow," Hooper said.
“He was around when they were going up to Coffs Harbour and they had the Coffs Harbour set up - he’s part of the furniture.
“It’s actually going to be really interesting not having him around, but the stuff that he leaves - anyone who speaks to him in this team, however young, however old you are, you learn something from him.
“And then just the way he plays, his full commitment in this time.
“This last little bit he’s (playing) in this jersey, in this setup, you’d be silly not to be going to try and rack his mind for things and advice and experience and just good stories at the end of the day.”Hooper said the real legacy of Moore, on both his deputy and the Wallabies on a greater scale, was the strength of his conviction, not concerned about the popular moves but rather the ones that he felt were right.
“One of the major things I really loved about Squeak in my time around him is he has an opinion and he backs it all the time,” he said.
“It may not be the unanimous decision, it may not be the popular decision all the time, even though a lot of the time it’s the right direction, it’s one that he stands by and as a mark of a man that’s a great quality to have and it’s certainly something I’ve been impressed with over the years.”
While no official call has been made on who the next captain will be, Hooper is all but certain to take the reins to the 2019 World Cup, as Moore’s long-time deputy.
That, though, was a conversation for another day, Moore keen to give his successor their time in the sun and Hooper happy simply to reflect on the influence of his long-time Test leader.