SYDNEY, April 27, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Rugby Australia has offered Wallabies captain Michael Hooper an unprecedented five-year contract in a bid to secure him through to the 2023 Rugby World Cup, Australian media reported Friday.
In a move interpreted as Hooper replacing Israel Folau as the face of Australian rugby, following controversy over his views on homosexuality, the reports say RA has offered the 26-year-old flanker its longest-ever deal.
A RA spokesman told AFP: “We don’t comment on contract negotiations.”
The marketable Hooper is out of contract at the end of this year but the New South Wales Waratahs flanker said he hasn’t decided on his future.
Asked if a long-term contract in Australia was appealing, Hooper told The Daily Telegraph: “I love playing rugby in Australia. It is such a great place to play rugby.
“There is a great talent pool and we have a lot of players coming up who are hungry to win, and that’s something that is exciting.”
But Hooper told the newspaper he was focused on leading the Waratahs, who top the Australian conference in this season’s Super Rugby competition.
“Next week is in my head at the moment,” Hooper said.
“You can’t get caught up in looking too far down the track. You have to focus on the here and now. That’s where my head is at.
“These things take time (to finalise). There are a lot of things going on, as you can imagine. Whenever that time arrives, so be it.”
Hooper, a two-time John Eales medal-winner as Australian rugby’s best player, would reportedly command Aus$1 million ($750,000) a season in Australia, but clubs in Europe and Japan were likely to pay more.
The reported developments follow a storm over Folau, after the devout Christian wrote on social media that gay people would go to hell unless they repented.
RA did not sanction Folau for his comments but the player revealed he was willing to walk away from the sport if the body felt his position was untenable.