Hooper's leadership journey far from over

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Michael Hooper might finally be the Wallabies captain, but he's not in a rush to make this team just his own.

The first time Hooper took over the Wallabies captaincy he was just 22, thrown into the position after a knee injury to Stephen Moore, and felt like was simply filling someone else’s shoes.

“I very much felt like an interim captain, it was Steve's team and then a week later it got changed, so it was also a tough time for the players having to deal with that,” he said.

Now that the team is ostensibly 'his' in a leadership sense, Hooper doesn't want it just to belong to him.

“I don't want this to be my team, I want this to be the Wallabies as driven by 50 or right now 50 players just keen as, just willing to die to get the job done,” he said.

“We've got Cheik and myself there now at the forefront of that but if you look, if you dug deeper, if you look deeper into the team, there is guys driving the team within that - Bernard (Foley), Allan's (Alaalatoa) impressed me around how he goes about his business, Adam Coleman, Reece Hodge, Kurtley (Beale) now he's back.

"Culture's thrown around so much but getting it right is going to be the challenge for us and that's going to take all 30 or 32 and the coaches included to get right."

The 25-year-old has leaned on a leadership coach this season at the Waratahs, as has teammate Foley, and said sessions had taught him more about the nuances of the task.

“(They showed me) telling things to people doesn't work,’ he said.

“If you yell at someone or tell someone to do something, are they going to change what they're doing?

“They're the person that's actually got to make the change and they're the person that's going to make the change.

“Helping them - and this is the trickiest part, because everyone's so different and everyone's going to react in a different way - is the way you're going to get better results.

“Telling guys to go out there and play your best game against New Zealand's not going to work, it's how they get themselves in these change rooms right, ready to go to want to perform and not let each other down, that's the tricky part.”

On his first day as Wallabies captain, Hooper was quick to voice his desire to continue developing.

“It's hard to take yourself outside and take a look at where you are, and I'm getting better at that and still learning with that,” he said.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika saw the leadership potential in Hooper early on in his days at the Waratahs.

“It probably took a bit of time to see that and that probably comes out naturally with the way a player will verbalise his thoughts to the rest of the team,” he said.

“He could say something to someone from a young age, an older player and  that player would take that on  board.

“It (respect) happens because of the way he holds himself on the field and what he does on the field.”

The Wallabies take on the All Blacks in the opening Bledisloe on August 19, kicking off at 8pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS. Buy tickets here.