Michael Hooper is arguably the finest Wallaby of his generation. When one considers that his generation includes the likes of David Pocock the accolade of ‘finest’ is placed in even greater perspective.
It is somewhat ironic that the son of an English emigrate has a middle name of Kent given that Hooper is the proverbial Superman of Australian rugby. A shoulder injury that denied him Australian schoolboy selection was merely a bump in the road for the dynamic flanker.
In 2010, aged just 19, Hooper made his Super Rugby debut for the ACT Brumbies against the Chiefs. In 2012, Hooper was selected for a Test debut before his 21st birthday in the one-off international played against Scotland in Newcastle and just two years later was thrust into the role as captain after Stephen Moore ruptured both his anterior cruciate ligament and medial ligaments in the opening Test of the season against France.
A future Hall of Fame candidate, Hooper has since proven to be nigh indestructible. He missed just six tests, two of which where he was left as an unused replacement, in his first six seasons of international rugby. It is also noteworthy that the 2017 international against Japan in Yokohama was the first time Hooper had been replaced in a Test for four years. In 2020, Hooper became just the twelfth Wallaby to play 100 Tests. Incredibly from his debut to that day in Wellington, Australia had only played 109 Tests. Notably, had it not been for COVID, Hooper - who had been stuck on 99 caps for almost a whole year - would have become both the youngest player and the quickest to become a Test centurion.
The following year Hooper broke George Gregan’s Australian record when he captained his country for a 60th match in the 30-18 victory over South Africa in Brisbane. Hooper is a four-time John Eales Medalist and a seven-time winner of the Matthew Burke Cup (2013-17, 2019-20) for the Waratahs’ player of the year.
2010 Selected in the Australian U20s squad for the third-annual IRB Junior World Championship tournament in Argentina.
2011 Selected in the Australian U20s squad for the fourth-annual IRB Junior World Championship tournament in Italy. Hooper captained the team against Fiji and went on to be named International Player of the Tournament.
2012 Hooper won his first Test cap off the bench in the infamous loss to Scotland in Newcastle and played in 13 of the Wallabies’ 15 Tests. He was selected in the run-on XV for the first time in the 0-22, 2nd Test loss to New Zealand in Auckland. Hooper won the Australian Rookie of the Year and despite only appearing in less than half the polled matches placed a remarkable third in the John Eales Medal.
2013 Hooper played in all 15 Wallaby Tests including 14 starts at openside flanker. He streeted the field by more than 100 votes to win his first John Eales Medal.
2014 In the 2nd Test against France in Melbourne, and in just his 30th Test, Hooper became the 82nd Wallaby to captain his country. At 22 years and 268 days he was the youngest captain since the great Ken Catchpole in 1961. Hooper started all 14 Tests at No.7 and was captain in each of the last thirteen internationals.
2015 When the Wallabies ran onto the field against the United States in Chicago, they did so without Michael Hooper in their match day squad for the first time since his debut. Hooper had played an impressive 43 consecutive Tests since he failed to get off the bench in the 2012, 1st Test against New Zealand in Sydney however that streak still fell 19 Tests short of the Australian record held by Joe Roff. Over the course of the season Hooper earned a further nine Test caps. In the Rugby World Cup semi-final against Argentina, he played his 50th Test. Hooper reached that milestone in just 3 years and 142 days to break Lote Tuqiri’s near-nine-year Australian record by 29 days.
2016 Hooper was picked as the starting No.7 for 14 of the season’s 15 Tests. He joined George Smith, Nathan Sharpe and Israel Folau as a two-time winner of the John Eales Medal. As he did in 2013, Hooper won the prestigious award by more than 100 votes.
2017 Hooper started all 14 Tests at openside flanker and formally assumed captaincy of the side from incumbent Stephen Moore in the 1st Test against New Zealand in Sydney. In the match against Wales in Cardiff, Hooper scored his fifteenth Test try to break the Australian all-time forwards’ record of 14 held by former captain Rocky Elsom and hooker Jeremy Paul.
2018 For the first time in his Wallaby career Hooper missed a Test due to injury. Ongoing hamstring troubles forced him to withdraw at the eleventh hour from the side chosen for the first Test against Argentina on the Gold Coast. That match aside, Hooper both started at openside flanker and captained the Wallabies in the remaining 12 Tests played throughout the year.
2019 Hooper captained Australia in eight of the year’s 10 internationals including all four matches in The Rugby Championship, the opening three pool games of the Rugby World Cup as well as the quarter final loss to England.
2020 In the COVID-interrupted season, Hooper led the Wallabies in all six Test matches, including his 100th, against New Zealand at Sky Stadium.
2021 Hooper started the first 13 internationals at openside flanker but missed the final Test of the year, against Wales in Cardiff, due to a grade two foot sprain.
2022 Capped in all three home Tests against England, Hooper was a late withdrawal from the side to play Argentina in Mendoza and went on to miss the entire Rugby Championship. He returned for the Spring tour, but not as captain, and played against Scotland, France and Ireland but due to concussion protocols was unavailable for the final fixture in Cardiff.