'The level you keep going to is pretty supreme': Hooper's tribute to Smith
Whatever happens on the field, the Wallabies have once again shown that their off-field relationship with the All Blacks is as strong as ever.
In the opening Bledisloe Cup match of the year, the All Blacks built a comfortable 33-8 lead before the Wallabies roared back into action late in the piece, scoring the final 17 points of the encounter.
Not since 1986 have Australia travelled to New Zealand and come out trumps in a match played at Eden Park and Saturday’s fixture proved no different, with the loss leaving the Wallabies staring down the barell of an 18th consecutive year of Bledisloe failures.
Despite the disappointing result for the visiting side, however, the Wallabies still paid tribute to All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith after the match, who was playing in his 100th game for New Zealand.
In a video released by rugby.com.au on YouTube, Wallabies captain Michael Hooper is seen in the NZ changing sheds following the match presenting to Smith a framed image of the new centurion sprinting away from an Australian defender.
“It’s my privilege to present this to Aaron Smith tonight,” Hooper says, before addressing Smith directly.
“You’re joining a pretty illustrious crew of New Zealanders who have played 100 times for their country.
“Just from a player’s point of view and our point of view, you’re someone who’s had challenges throughout your career but from zero games to 100 games, you keep improving and as a fellow athlete, the level that you keep going to is pretty supreme.
“101, you’re going to be a little bit better again. 102, we’re going to have to face you again and you’re going to be a little bit better.”
Hooper then again commends Smith before making a light-hearted joke at the halfback’s expense.
“It’s been fantastic playing against you. You’re outstanding, one of the best passers in the game – except for that little forward one tonight. We’ll see you this time next week and hopefully many more.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 11, 2021
Hooper, of course, is referring to the attempted pass by Smith to rampaging All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick in the lead-up to what appeared to be one of the best tries of the year – before the referees intervened and correctly ruled the pass forward.
The presentation highlighted the respect the Wallabies have for their test neighbours, despite whatever results unfurl on the field.
The All Blacks and Wallabies will again square off at Eden Park this weekend before playing a potential Bledisloe Cup decider in Perth on August 28.
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