Wallaby watch 2009 - Hooker
Rugby

Wallaby Watch – Hooker

Wallaby Watch – Hooker

The incumbent(s):


Stephen Moore (ACT): Gees it hurts to write that “ACT” after Moore’s name, but that’s another story. A few years ago, whilst he was still playing mind you, Jeremy Paul named Stephen Moore the best hooker in Australia. Well Squeaka is now proving JP right. And by some margin. Despite his rosy red cheeked baby face, Moore is now very much a senior player in the Wallaby line-up. His lineout is almost spot on these days, and he is the best scrumming hooker in Oz. Add to that a high work rate and strong running game and its easy to see why many were labelling Moore as one of the best hookers in the world last year.

The likely candidates:


Tatafu Polata-Nau (NSW): Finally is showing the maturity and full potential many proclaimed he had. The lineout can still be wonky, but it is a lot more consistent than previously. His scrummaging, in a strong Waratah pack, seems first class, thanks in no small parts to his immense strength. And around the field TPN is just a freak. His tackling is missile-like, and just as destructive, whilst his running and passing game belies his size. A wonderful player to watch and, because of the gap to the next best hooker, Tatafu staying in form and injury free is vital to Wallaby success.

The Roughies:


Adam Freier (NSW): This is one of the key concerns for Robbie Deans. Freier is the 3rd best hooker in Australia at the moment and he’s not even playing. Injured and “out for the season” I am unsure as to whether this means the Super 14 season or whether it stretches to the tests as well. Regardless a prolonged period on the sideline won’t be good for his game. Still battles with the stigma of being a little forward, but his combative style belies his stature and should be an example to any young forward running around today.

Sean Hardman (QLD): Is really a roughie due to the complete lack of depth elsewhere in the nation. Has had his best season for a number of years, but still is really no more than serviceable. Highly dependable in lineouts and scrums and just adequate elsewhere. Tai McIsaacs is probably on the same level at the moment, but is committed to coaching in Japan next year, so can’t be considered. Who else is there?


What is Deans looking for?

Like every position in the tight five, it is set piece assuredness that is most sought after here. Taking it a step further for the hooker, he really needs to be a forward leader. He needs to lead the scrums, and although he may not call the lineout throws, he is the most critical component. But the most important thing Deans is looking for in this position, as alluded to above, is depth. After Moore and TPN, the cupboard is bare. Freier? Injured. McIsaacs and Hardman? Aging battlers. Faingaa, Holmes, Ulugia, Edmonds? Just not up to it. Fitzpatrick? Quite possibly down the line, but not just yet.

Who is the answer?

The combination of Moore and TPN is a fantastic pairing of set piece solidity (most of the time) and general play ability. Both play a similar game with similar attributes, which enables a compatibility of game plan. The decision, though, is made a hell of a lot easier by the fact that two states have no test quality hookers among either of them.

 

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The original prop in a prop's body, but thankfully I have the rugby mind of a prop as well.

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