A dire Super Rugby season has only made Michael Hooper more determined to try and help the Wallabies to Bledisloe glory.
No Australian team, at Super Rugby or Test level, has bested a Kiwi side in more than a year and Hooper said that only made him more desperate.
“It’s a hell of a prize. It’s even more of a prize, the fact that no one thinks you can do it,” he said.
“I mean all the hard work’s in vain if you don’t get the really good things at the end.”
Hooper and the Waratahs have felt that this year – in a record-low season – but the 25-year-old said his optimism hadn’t dimmed ahead of the Bledisloe, with the Waratahs and Rebels Wallabies contingent training in Sydney this week.
“I work hard to have the opportunity to play these games – I go in every year full of confidence we can beat these guys, full of confidence seeing the players we’ve got running around,” he said.
“We’ve got the talent, it’s under a month now until it comes around.
“One of the positives of only having one team in the finals is we’ve got four teams in the thick of that being able to be together and be working towards these goals at the end.
“So, we’re having conversations now about what’s going to be in place in under a month’s time, how we’re going to beat New Zealand, what’s it going to take to beat New Zealand and new guys actually thinking we can do it, having those conversations.”
While a lack of conditioning between Super Rugby and the Wallabies was a hot topic in June, Hooper said there was more than just a lack of fitness to a Waratahs side that looked exhausted and overwhelmed in a final round loss to the Force.
“If you really want to be somewhere, you’ll be there,” he said.
“You’ve got to want to make that tackle, every time.
“(If) we have guys wanting to be there, wanting to make that tackle because you don’t want to let that other man down inside us, we’ll be in a lot better shape and guys will just feel fitter.”
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The Waratahs have copped external flak for a lack of commitment and though Hooper’s intent could rarely be questioned, the flanker is among few in his club about whom that could be said.
For Hooper, the 2018 challenge is making sure that everyone is thinking in the same way.
“You’ve got to be put into positions to realise what it means to you,” he said.
“While everyone has worked very hard to get here, we are in a very privileged position. To be able to work in here every day as hard as you can for wanting a goal at the end of the road.
“It’s not as easy as some might think – it’s a fantastic position we’re in, love it, wouldn’t change it for the world but it has its demands and it’s tough on people and everyone’s different.
“So managing to get everyone on the same page wanting to be their best or near their best every day is a challenge and a challenge for us in the group and as leaders this year, that’s something we didn’t get right.
“That is the quick take out from this season.”