Wallabies hooker Stephen Moore to end career at Murrayfield

Stephen Moore. Image: ©Fotosport/David Gibson

STEPHEN Moore came of age at Murrayfield, so it is fitting that he should end his career there too. The Wallabies hooker, who made his first Test start in Edinburgh back in 2006, has not only decided to retire from international duty after Saturday’s Autumn Test, he has also opted to call a halt to his whole professional career.

Provided that Australia coach Michael Cheika does the decent thing and selects Moore in the No 2 jersey one more time, the genial 34-year-old will bow out on 128 caps. He is not yet in a position to divulge what he aims to do next, but the nature of his plans means that he feels he needs to give 100 per cent to his next venture, just as he has done throughout his rugby career. He hopes to go out on a high, of course, with a win to bookend the 44-15 stroll 11 years ago, but he is also concerned that, whatever the result, his retirement should not overshadow the occasion,

“It’s been a good week so far,” Moore said on Tuesday at the Wallabies’ hotel in the centre of Edinburgh. “I’m just trying to prepare as best I can for the Test at the weekend. It’s a big game for the team. Always in these type of weeks where there’s a personal milestone for someone it can be a distraction; you’ve just got to stay focused on what the job is.”



In its essential, the job for Moore is unchanged: hookers, above all, still have to scrummage well, and throw in at the lineout with as much accuracy as they can muster. But in many respects, he has seen Test rugby change dramatically in that decade and a bit. “A lot has happened between then and now. The game is much quicker, more physical, everyone’s faster.

“Defences have become really well organised and you’ve seen defence coaches coming in and having a big influence on teams. Just the collisions now, the impact in the game has probably gone up a couple of levels since I started. There’s probably not as much space on the field as there used to be, and that’s why the onus is on the attack to be very accurate and create space.”

Moore was first capped off the bench in 2005, and made quite a few appearances as a substitute before eventually getting his chance as a starter the following year. The Wallabies back line, in particular, was a force to be reckoned with at the time, with great names such as Stephen Larkham, Stirling Mortlock and Matt Giteau, and they were far too strong for Frank Hadden’s Scotland, for whom the 2006 game was a 16th consecutive loss in the fixture.

“It was a great occasion,” Moore recalled. “I was pretty nervous, and it was pretty windy and wet. I think Knuckles – John Connolly, who was the coach at the time – he was probably going to replace me at half-time, I think. I don’t think the lineout went too well in the first half, but we sorted things out and ended up having a good win. I scored a try, which was great. It was a good day all round.

“Gits was playing half-back, if I remember, which was unusual – I think he only played a handful of Tests at half-back. I think he just scooted out from a ruck and I just happened to be near the line and just got it over. I can’t say it was from any distance out. It was a reasonably short range, but they all count the same, I suppose.”

Ross Ford, a substitute then, is the only member of that Scotland squad still playing, although of course he has missed out on this Autumn series because of energy. And it is not only the personnel that has changed: the record, too, is much better for Scotland, who have won three of the six Tests played since then.

“These two teams have been evenly matched over quite a period of time now,” Moore added. “We know they’re a quality team. They’ve got some absolutely quality players and we know it’s going to be another really tough Test match for us.”

Choosing when and how to retire is one of the most difficult decisions for any professional athlete to make. Some call a halt too early and regret it ever after; others linger on too long. Moore had a chance to keep playing for the Reds back in Queensland, but, with that business opportunity on the horizon, and after consulting widely, he is sure he has made the right decision.

“I was looking at what I was going to do after rugby, and that probably came forward about six months from what I thought,” he explained. “So I had to make a decision then.

“There was an opportunity to maybe do a bit of both, but when I spoke to [Reds coach] Brad Thorn about it, we decided that it was just best to finish up this year. That’s the absolute best decision for myself and also for the team. The Reds can move forward next year: they have a good young squad that Brad can start to work with.

“Yeah, I talked to a lot of people about it – people like David Geffen, who played a lot of games for Australia and the Brumbies. He’s been down that path and he gave me some great advice. Some of those people have transitioned into really successful careers after rugby, and I really do feel like you can’t leave that too long. There’s going to be a lot of learning, so you need to pick when the time is right to start the next phase of your life.”

 

About Stuart Bathgate 1112 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.