Sport

Fresh from standing down as Wallabies captain, Stephen Moore talks about the importance of experience and a balanced life off the rugby field. By Richard Cooke.
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Moore experience: Stephen Moore, 34, rugby player

I grew up in Rockhampton. Or Mount Morgan, which is a small town outside of Rockhampton, and the rugby club was just up the end of the street where I grew up. That was a pretty natural progression.

Mum and Dad were both Irish. We’d moved from Ireland when I was five, so they really had no concept of rugby league. Apart from rugby union all they knew was Gaelic football.

Rugby was still quite strong in central Queensland back then. I mean the Reds used to come and play games in Rockhampton. That doesn’t happen anymore. That was a big buzz for me to see my heroes there, playing at the local ground.

I wasn’t really a standout player from an early age. I played in the local representative competition for Rockhampton, but until I came to Brisbane you probably didn’t get a taste of the higher standard. I just was another member of the team.

It’s hard to put your finger on one thing – that helped take that step up. I don’t think it was maturing physically. I really enjoyed my rugby at university. I was studying there as well and a lot of my mates were, too. I think that was pretty telling. There were probably half-a-dozen of us from that team that went on and played professional rugby.

Experience is something you can’t really underestimate. You always hear people say, “If I knew what I know when I’m 34 when I was 24”, then you would have probably done a lot of things differently. But that’s the beauty of youth and experience. It’s really important to have a good mix of both and both of those demographics, they bring a lot to the team.

You might call it your gut instinct. But there’s no doubt that it’s shaped by the experiences that you’ve had in your career – positive or negative – that contribute to the decisions that you make further down the track.

There’s no doubt we watched the Lions tour of New Zealand closely. It was a great series for rugby. And for a fan of rugby, it was a really good series to watch.

New Zealand haven’t lost a game at Eden Park for 28 years. Or something. So the fortress phenomenon isn’t that recent. But there’s no doubt, particularly with Super Rugby this year, it’s been a very tough place for Australian teams to go and win. And that’s not something we’re happy about.

From a rugby point of view we just haven’t played well enough. I know particularly the Wallabies’ coaches now are plotting their strategy, and their plan to go over there and play well.

If you get bogged down in previous results it can be really a bit of a spiral. You know the record and things like that, and results. It is what it is and you can’t change it. But we want to work as hard as we can to put ourselves in a good position to play well.

You experience changing emotions as the faces in the team change around you. I’ve played with so many players right from the start of my career. Players do come and go for different reasons. And you become close to some players and then when they move on you obviously miss playing with them, or they retire or whatever it might be.

Young players can be motivating for a senior player. They come in with their enthusiasm and their hunger to improve. When you look at someone who may not have had that opportunity before, and how exciting it is for them to put on that jersey for the first time, it reminds you of what it was like.

I remember saying to a few of them that it goes pretty quickly. To me it’s one of the great moments in your life. To get that opportunity to pull on that jersey.

Your career goes quickly even though it might seem long. And the opportunities, you know they pass you by if you don’t take them. So it does bring you back to when you started and how good that feeling was.

I don’t want rugby to be something that defines me for the rest of my life. I always say to young players just try and have as many different things in your life as you can, whether it’s your rugby or your faith, your family, whatever other interests you might have. It’s really important to have a number of different things in your life that are important to you and I’ve certainly tried to live by that.

 

This week’s highlights…

• Swimming: 17th FINA World Championships

Until Monday morning, Budapest, Hungary

• Horseracing: Winter Challenge Race Day

Saturday, 1st race 11.40am (AEST), Rosehill Gardens, Sydney

• AFL: Port Adelaide v St Kilda

Saturday, 4.05pm (ACST), Adelaide Oval

• Rugby union: Super Rugby semi-finals

Crusaders v Chiefs; Lions v Hurricanes

Saturday, 5.35pm (AEST), AMI Stadium, Christchurch; 10.30pm (AEST), Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg

• NRL: Melbourne Storm v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

Sunday, 2pm (AEST), AAMI Park, Melbourne

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 29, 2017 as "Moore experience". Subscribe here.

Richard Cooke
is a journalist and writer for television. He is The Saturday Paper's sports editor.