CALLING TIME: Current Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore has announced he will retire from international football at the end of the year.
CALLING TIME: Current Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore has announced he will retire from international football at the end of the year. Mike Hewitt

Ex-Wallaby opens up on memories of great mate Moore

WAY back in 2006, Jeremy Paul made a huge call.

The Rugby World Cup-winner told Wallabies coach John Connolly that young Reds rake Stephen Moore was going to be the "best hooker ever to play for Australia."

He didn't know it at the time, but Paul was probably doing himself no favours.

"I probably cruelled my own World Cup chances in 2007 when I told John Connolly a year earlier that 'this kid is going to be the best hooker to ever play for Australia.'

"He ended up getting picked in front of me the following year," Paul said after Moore announced he would retire from Test rugby at the end of 2017.

Moore, 34, who will continue playing for the Reds in 2018, made his Test debut off the bench as Paul's deputy in 2005.

"He had a full head of hair," Paul chuckled.

"That's what I remember.

"I remember his first Wallaby camp and that was with Eddie Jones, and Eddie used to rile him up.

"I think that's why he lost his hair to be honest and poor Moorey, I think he slept with three alarms on during that campaign."

But their friendship dates back much further than that.


Stephen Moore of the Reds plays halfback against the Chiefs in the Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Reds at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth, New Zealand, May 6 2017.  (AAP Image/SNPA, Ross Setford) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Stephen Moore will retire from international rugby at the end of this year but will run out for the Reds next year. ROSS SETFORD

"I was out really late at the casino in Brisbane one night, as you did back then in the off-season, and ran into this big, young kid," Paul recalls.

"He was like 'I'm this hooker' and we started talking about the game.

"And I gave him my number and encouraged him to give me a call, and he did later that year.

"Then he signed with the Reds a few years later and it wasn't long before we were playing against each other and he was in the Wallabies squad with me, which was nice.

"I suppose during my career, when I first started, I didn't have someone that didn't take me under their wing in that same position.

"It was that old school idea that you had to hate your rival for the position, whereas that was something that I strongly disagreed with

"So from that day forward from the late 90s, I made sure that any player that was in my position, I always made sure that I taught them everything I knew.

"It was nothing to do with them in regards to selection and it actually made me a better player.

"And I think that's something that Moorey took on as well within his career."

A dozen years after making his debut against Samoa, Moore has lost his curly locks but won the respect of the world rugby community.


Australia's Wallabies George Gregan during one of the last Wallabies training session in Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, Aug. 21. 2007, before the team departs for the 2007 World Cup in France. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
With 120 Tests to his name Stephen Moore is second to only George Gregan (139) as the Wallabies' most capped player. ROB GRIFFITH

A consummate professional, the 34-year-old came to the conclusion that the Wallabies would be best served by him stepping aside ahead of the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

Moore has captained the Wallabies 26 times since being given the honour in 2014 and Paul, also regarded as one of Australia's finest hookers, paid tribute to his leadership and consistency.

"With any top player you want them to lead on the field and the one thing that Moorey's done in his career is be one of those players that you can follow," Paul said.

"You get different types of players on the field, whether they're workers or Lamborghinis - those wingers out wide who only do something for two minutes but will change the game by doing something freakish.

"And then you'll get your leaders that everyone else follows and Moorey's always been one of those guys.

"He was such a big guy.

"He was in the mould of Tom Lawton, but had the agility and skill of Phil Kearns.

"Moorey sort of changed the mould of a hooker today.

"He's always been there and thereabouts and one of the top five players on the field from both teams in every match, so it's that consistency that stands out."