Michael Hooper signs new 5-year deal with Australian Rugby

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Australia v Ireland in the second Mitsubishi Estate Ireland Series Test Match at AAMI Park, Melbourne, 16 June, 2018.  Australia captain Michael Hooper. Copyright Image: Stuart Walmsley / www.photosport.nz

Australia v Ireland in the second Mitsubishi Estate Ireland Series Test Match at AAMI Park, Melbourne, 16 June, 2018. Australia captain Michael Hooper. Copyright Image: Stuart Walmsley / www.photosport.nz (Photo: Stuart Walmsley)

Captain Michael Hooper may lead the Wallabies to the next two World Cups after signing a new five-year contract Friday with Rugby Australia.

The 26-year-old backrower has already played 82 tests and could easily double that tally under his new contract which runs through the end of 2023.

Professional rugby players seldom sign contracts of such duration, preferring to give themselves the option of eventually securing lucrative contracts overseas. Wing Lote Tuqiri signed a five-year deal in 2007 but secured a release inside the contract term.

Hooper, who would likely command more than $1 million per year to play in Europe, told a news conference Friday the decision to remain in Australia came easily.

"I never really thought about going elsewhere or entertaining anything like that," he said. "I was really keen to stay in Australia and keep doing what I can for the Wallabies and the Waratahs.

"It's a long deal so I have to thank (Wallabies coach Michael Cheika) and (Australian rugby chief executive Raelene Castle) as well as the Waratahs for having the belief in me that I can continue to contribute.

"I love Australian rugby. I like heading down to Manly Oval to watch club footy in my time off. I obviously enjoy getting stuck in at Super Rugby level and then nothing compares to playing test rugby for your country. I'm not really into contracts and all that back and forward so to know that I'm sorted through the next World Cup is really comforting and just means I can throw everything into the Waratahs and Wallabies."

Australian media has reported Hooper's new deal may be worth $6 million over five years, making him the highest-paid player in Australia or New Zealand. But Australian Rugby sees the benefit in securing long-term the services of Hooper, who has already been Australia's Player of the Year twice and was its fifth-youngest captain when he was appointed in 2017.

Cheika said Hooper's decision showed his faith in the future or rugby in Australia, where it faces a constant battle for audience share with other football codes.

"Michael's commitment to Rugby in Australia and to the Wallabies is second to none," Cheika said. "He is a very proud Australian and a great representative of what we want in sport in Australia.

He guarantees full commitment and effort every time he plays and he never takes a backward step. Every time he has pulled on the green and gold he shows this commitment and now as captain he's learning each day and growing into the type of leader that we need in the game."

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