Tom Hooper: The bruising Brumby out to reignite the golden years

Wed, Aug 30, 2023, 1:28 AM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
Tom Hooper is looking to lead the Wallabies into the future. Photo: Getty Images
Tom Hooper is looking to lead the Wallabies into the future. Photo: Getty Images

Brumbies and Wallabies flanker Tom Hooper is looking at the World Cup as the perfect platform for the next generation of stars to begin their revitalisation of Australian Rugby.

Hooper represents a new era for the Wallabies, earmarked as a key piece of the back-row heading forward

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25 of the 33-player squad are heading to their first World Cup, whilst 14, including Hooper, have made their debut in the past 18 months.

The current group of Wallabies are well aware of the past, although it's before their time.

Instead of memories of 1991 and 1999, it's a case of near but not close enough such as the 2015 World Cup Final and a two-decade Bledisloe drought.

It serves as fuel for Hooper and the Wallabies, particularly after their own lean start.

“We’re a really tight-knit group because we’re all young bucks and we’ve all got something to prove," Hooper said to Rugby.com.au before departing to France

“A lot of us are under the age of 25. We all grew up in an era where the Wallabies weren’t so dominant, we don’t remember the golden years.

“...We wanted to win all those games so to come away none from four isn't a great start but what we saw in those games was each game, we took a step forward. That's all you want to do in a World Cup year, you don't want to take any steps backward. 

“If we're just taking forward steps, we’re going to be a really dangerous team come finals time.”

The Wallabies have had a conveyor belt of world-class sevens in the 21st century but the blindside position has been less secure.

In the past, it has seen opensides or number eights shift as coaches adopt a 'pick your best players regardless of position' policy, evident by the 'Pooper' combination at the last Rugby World Cup. It's not since Scott Fardy in 2015 has there been an established six command the position.

Five people were used in 2022 before Hooper started in the first Test of 2023 against the Springboks.

Every kid dreams of the moment they pull on the gold jersey but the 22-year-old's was more a nightmare, forced off with a shoulder injury after just 30 minutes.

“It was a tough one to debut like this…it’s a dream come true but it’s not always a fairytale," he concedes.

“It wasn’t the fairytale start but so far I’m just really stoked with being able to play the Bledisloe games and being on the plane to France tomorrow, it’s a great turnaround.

“I had a similar injury in the semi last year so I knew it wasn’t quite as bad as that one, it was more on the day I couldn’t really perform at the best of my ability.

“I was disappointed about the night itself but I was always optimistic that my shoulder would be good and the S&C guys gave me a flogging the next week so I was ready to go for the Bledisloe.”

Hooper got himself back into the starting side, although found himself moved to openside for the opening Bledisloe.

However, six seems to be home for now under coach Eddie Jones, forming a solid unit with Fraser McReight and Rob Valetini.

Versatility is a value recognised by Hooper, able to cover the second and back row, even though it comes from a simplistic place for the Brumby.

" I just like playing footy,” he remarked.

With his dream now a reality, Hooper was ready to pay back the belief shown in him by those close to him and create a legacy for the next generation to come.

“We’re really keen to bring those golden years back, that’s our driving force behind all the young bucks making sure that we’re putting our best foot forward for Australian Rugby," he added.

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