'Tough bugger coming with scars': Former rising star Wallaby wants to emulate - and the feature that impressed Cheika

‘Tough bugger coming with scars’: Former rising star Wallaby wants to emulate – and the feature that impressed Cheika

Life was a little different for Tom Hooper during the Brumbies’ pre-season.

Not only did he emerge as a starting candidate for the XV in a star-studded attacking squad, but the blind flanker’s younger brother, Lachlan, showed up.

The Hoopers are the latest pair of brothers to feature for the Brumbies, joining the Lonergans, Ryan and Lachlan, and after the Fainga’as, Saia, Anthony and Colby.

But unlike the aforementioned brothers, Tom and Lachlan play in the same position.

“We had a group of young boys who were a really good addition, my brother is included in that little group of young guys so it was interesting to have him with us,” Hooper said. the roar.

“He just signed for a few years.

“He’s 18, so he just graduated from Barker. And he is [in] my position, so in a few years, he may be the one who will kick me out.

So what was it like growing up in the Hooper household?

“We had loads of busts when I was growing up,” the Bathurst-raised product said.

“He’s actually left-handed, I’m right-handed, so we only ever had one set of boxing gloves. I’d take the right-handed glove and he’d take the left-handed glove and the rest is history. That ended usually through tears or just that he got angry because he was a feisty little bastard.

“So a few snags, a few touch games in the garden that turned into a tackle, but because he was three years younger than me, he was always a bit smaller but he just has that dog on him, that kind of fight about it.

The brothers are now very close. Tom is more serious while Lachlan is a “relaxed character”. As for kitchen chores?

“He’s turned his nose up at a few meals I cook for him because it’s not quite up to what his chefs were cooking for him at the Barker boarding house,” Hooper joked.

Hooper, 21, turned heads in 2022. While some faded as the season progressed, Hooper impressed many with his relentless performance and powerful engine, especially after star rower Rob Valetini missed out. the end of the regular season before returning in time for the semi-final against the Blues in Auckland.

Tom Hooper is aiming to make the Wallabies after a breakout in 2022. Photo: Brumbies Media

Before that, Hooper was emerging as a bolter for the Wallabies. Maybe not immediately, but over time.

Standing at 199cm and hitting the scales at 118kg, Hooper is physically exactly the type of player the Wallabies are looking for; a great alignment option, physical and relentless around the breakdown.

That’s what impressed former Wallabies manager Michael Cheika in an eye-catching display against the Hurricanes in the Brumbies’ quarter-final win at home last June.

“He was tireless tonight, he put in a lot of work,” Cheika said of Hooper. “I haven’t watched him much but he’s a real competitor that I love.”

You get the feeling Hooper might have reminded him of another tough flanker, Scott Fardy, who played a pivotal role in the Wallabies’ run to the World Cup final in 2015.

In truth, the Wallabies have never been able to replace Fardy since he left Australian rugby. He provided balance for the Wallabies in the back row and completed David Pocock and Michael Hooper.

Curiously, the rising number 6, who is also capable of playing at the second tier, said Fardy was the player he looked up to as a teenager.

“I was a huge Scotty Fardy fan,” Hooper said.

“It’s kind of funny because Jesse Mogg compares me to Fards quite often because we’re not necessarily the fastest guys, but we do a little bit of work and do the hard yakka. I don’t know if that’s positive or if he comes after me.

Tom Hooper says he wants to follow to emulate Scott Fardy, who was instrumental in the Wallabies’ run to the World Cup final in 2015. Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

“I’ve always admired him and you see a guy like that, just a badass, getting in touch, going out with scars on his face, he’s the kind of guy I want to model my game on and I I’m lucky to be sitting in his locker right now. We share a locker, so hopefully I can emulate his game a bit more as the season progresses. But all these types of characters. Rocky Elsom, Owen Finegan, numbers 6 tough with a bit of skill.

For now, Hooper knows he has some catching up to do. A shoulder injury in the Brumbies’ heartbreaking 20-19 semi-final defeat at Eden Park ended his season.

This robbed Hooper of the chance to get closer to a Wallabies shirt, with the Brumbies striker having made Australia’s A team for the Pacific Nations Cup without his season-ending injury.

It was there that others like Langi Gleeson began to make their run, which culminated when the Waratahs freshman rower made his debut for the Wallabies at the end of the Spring Tour season.

That’s why Hooper wants to get started.

“I was happy with the opportunities I had at the end of the Super last year, but it was a bit bitter in the mouth with this injury,” he said.

“I obviously didn’t have any opportunities after that.

“So I’m picking up where I left off in terms of Super Rugby and making sure that I’m working every day to get a starting shirt because obviously you look at our stocks this year, our back and our second row stocks are really good I have three Wallaby second rowers and two of the Wallabies big dogs [Valetini and Pete Samu] in our back row, so there’s not a whole lot of seats up there.

“I just work really hard to make sure I get into a starting jersey.

“I would be lying if I didn’t say one of my goals was to try and crack a Wallaby side later in the year after some good performances, but we’ll see what happens and see how I progress. I think I have the confidence to go on and try my hand at this.

Tom Hooper carries the ball during the Super Rugby Pacific Semi-Final match against the Blues at Eden Park on June 11, 2022 in Auckland. Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Hooper missed Rennie’s first 44-man Wallabies practice squad for the year.

Rennie picked 10 back rowers for the squad, which included two open flankers as well as the all-rounders Samu and Charlie Gamble.

That means Hooper comes a long way, but with the blind flanker role particularly open, with Waratahs tough man Lachlan Swinton also missing out on selection after injury in 2022, players can certainly fall behind for selection.

“I never really expected to be part of this team because of this injury which is slowing down my growth as a player and my ability to seize opportunities, but it puts a fire in my stomach and it makes me want to get in there team and see my name on that paper,” Hooper said.

“From there obviously there’s a big difference between being in a team and actually playing so my goal is to play for the Wallabies and that could happen if I play well for the Brumbies and making sure we let’s win a Super Rugby title and I’m a big part of that.

Tom Hooper returns the ball into the teeth of the defense against the Highlanders at GIO Stadium on June 11, 2021 in Canberra. Photo: Mark Nolan/Getty Images

Making an early statement against the Waratahs on the Super Rugby Pacific opening night on February 24 is just what Hooper needs to get the tail moving.

Indeed, that’s what Aussie rugby needs, especially with an earlier evening blockbuster against the Crusaders and Chiefs, and the other codes Down Under heading towards the end of pre-season.

“I think as soon as the draw came out, and I saw it was the Waratahs and I saw it was at the new stadium, I was very excited,” Hooper said.

“Having been out of rugby for six months now, that’s the one I had definitely circled, and I think Bernie (returning coach Stephen Larkham) had probably circled to get one on team-mate Darren Coleman as well.

“It’s exciting. They’ve got five guys in their back-five in the Wallabies squad so they’re going to have a really good attacking pack and they’ve also got some props in the Wallabies and it’s going to be a great fight at the new stadium.

“A bit of typical Aussie tough football, so I’m really looking forward to it and I dare say across the Brumbies organization we’re really looking forward to playing the old foe, and the new stadium, it’s just good publicity for rugby.

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