Hooper named Waratahs Super Rugby captain

Michael Hooper will captain the Waratahs

Waratahs head coach Daryl Gibson has confirmed that Wallabies and Waratahs flanker Michael Hooper will captain the Sydney based Super Rugby franchise in the 2016 season.

Hooper will captain the squad this year with Dave Dennis and both will be supported by a senior leadership team.

The 24-year-old has a wealth of experience as captain, first taking the reins for the NSW Waratahs in 2014 when Dennis succumbed to injury, leading the side to their inaugural Super Rugby title.

He also became one of the youngest players ever to captain the Wallabies at 22 years of age when he was announced Australia’s 82nd Skipper during the three-Test series against the French in the 2014 June internationals.

Hooper said he was honoured to be named the NSW Waratahs team captain.

“I’m a NSW boy through and through. Growing up in NSW and getting the opportunity to lead NSW is a huge privilege, especially after taking over from Dave Dennis who has been a big influence on my career,” Hooper said.

“Dave and I have a great relationship, and the team is culturally really strong so changes that have already taken place this year have been taken really well by the group. This will be no different.

“The Waratahs have a fantastic club history. Some of that history has been built by the guys in this team, so they know that only a collective effort will ensure good performances week to week.

“It’s going to be a learning process for me, it’s a fairly new squad so there’s challenges there, but also excitement around what we can get done on the field.”

Gibson said it is Hooper’s natural leadership skills that led him to his selection as team captain.

“This is an opportunity for Michael to establish himself as leader of a new group with a view to the long-term future.

“We are extremely fortunate to have an experienced senior group behind them too, with guidance from players like Dave Dennis and Dean Mumm to assist in leading our team.

“Dave has been, and will continue to be, an outstanding leader at our club. He becomes our club captain, giving us two quality people to lead our team and club.”

An esteemed member of the Waratahs side, Hooper set a club record in 2015, becoming the first player to win the Matthew Burke Cup three times, receiving the most amount of votes from his NSW peers every year since his debut year with the side in 2013.

He broke records internationally too during last year’s Rugby World Cup when he became the fastest player to reach 50 Test caps, surpassing former Waratah, Al Baxter, All Blacks centre Mils Muliaina and Welsh back, George North.

Such achievements speak to Hooper’s reliability and hard-working commitment. He has played 80 minutes in all but two of his 50 matches for the Waratahs since joining the club two years ago.

He finished the 2015 season again with outstanding individual statistics, topping the NSW count for number of tackles made, and leading all Waratahs forwards in run metres. He ranked equal second for most tackle busts and try assists, and third for most linebreaks of his teammates.

Born and bred on Sydney’s northern beaches, Hooper started playing rugby from the age of six with the Manly Roos. A former pupil at Chatswood’s St Pius X College, Hooper was identified as captain material from an early age, leading the school side from ages 13 to 16.

He was selected for the Under 16 NSW Schools Rugby team in 2007 before starring for the Australian Schoolboys in 2008.

Two years later, at just 18 years-of-age, Hooper made his first step onto the Super Rugby stage with the Brumbies, running on to replace an injured George Smith. In 2011 he skippered the Australian Under 20s against Fiji, during a standout campaign at the Junior World Championships that saw him win the title of international Under 20s Player of the Year.

Hooper returned to his home state in 2013 where he made his debut for the Waratahs in round two against Queensland.

Since then, Hooper has been bestowed with a series of honours based on his impressive approach to rugby both on and off the field, including Wallabies’ Rookie of the Year during his opening season of international rugby in 2012, John Eales Medal and Waratahs Medal for Excellence in 2013, as well as the Australian Super Rugby Player of the Year in 2013, and joint winner in 2014 with teammate Israel Folau.

The NSW Waratahs 2016 Super Rugby season kicks off on Saturday 27th February in a round one clash against the Queensland Reds at Allianz Stadium.

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