“It’s a fair way away but my thoughts and ideas around that have not changed, I do still think I have a lot of growing in myself and my game play and my captaincy,” he said.
“There’s conversations Dave (Rennie) and I will be having in the future but it’s also a bit of a time off (in the distance), so we’re just dealing around the here and now and what that will look like.”
The announcement came on the same day as Rennie was expected to arrive at Daceyville for a day with the Waratahs, adding further intrigue to what is shaping up as an interesting season for the proud Australian state.
Hooper said leading NSW since 2016 had been an enormous privilege but had also taken its toll.
“This is something that’s been on my mind, in this environment, for a good 18 months, so it hasn’t been something that’s been on a whim,” he said.
“I went into last season fully committed to the role but also having question marks over my position as captain. With a change of coach and Rob [Penney] coming in, Rob’s been amazing around giving me the time to really mull it over.”
Further explaining the “question marks”, Hooper said captaining the two teams for some time, as well as fronting the media throughout a tumultuous few seasons had had a “taxing effect”.
“There’s much more than just running them out on the park, leading the team out on the weekend,” he said.
“When I say doing both roles is tough, it’s also an amazing privilege, leading my country and leading my state is an amazing feeling. I feel very proud for my family that we’ve had that for the last four-plus years, riding that with them, and also being around a bunch of great men for a long period of time.
“There’s the performances of teams that weigh into it, there’s [the media] … having to speak every week is tough and tiring sometimes, to try to get the message right and represent the team as best as possible.
“And a big part of it is I’ve got another four years here and I want to make that four years really special and take my personal game and my leadership to another level.
“I think actually stepping back is going to allow me to do that. It’s going to allow me to take a different tack on how I can work within a team, be part of a team in a different way and also be part of this leadership group.”
Simmons, with 145 Super Rugby caps to his name – 114 of those at the Queensland Reds – will become the 172nd captain of the NSW Waratahs in their 146-year history.
In a statement, Hooper, who won a Super Rugby title in 2014 with the Waratahs as stand-in captain, said the time was right to hand over to Simmons.
“It’s a role that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed but I feel that the time is right for someone like Rob to lead this group in the season ahead.
“Someone of his quality and character, both on and off the field, leading this young team around will be extremely valuable moving forward. He has the full support of myself and the wider leadership team in building a culture we feel will bring NSW success in Super Rugby.”
Hooper was a broken man after Australia’s World Cup quarter-final exit in Japan. He has captained the Wallabies in 48 of his 99 Tests.
Speaking on arrival back in Australia in October, Hooper told reporters: “[Captaincy] is a privilege that is given to you and you do your best in that role. That is all I ever tried to do. If that continues, so be it. It’s not something I have ever tried to really knife other people to go and get or anything like that.”
Hooper absence is a real changing of the guard under new coach Rob Penney, who paid tribute to the NSW stalwart.
“We’ve had a number of conversations about this and we feel that this is in the best interest of the entire squad,” Penney said.
“Rob has shown himself to be an incredible leader in my short time here at the Waratahs, his presence around the group and his experience at provincial and international level will be an invaluable resource for our younger boys.
“We’ve got an exceptional group of leaders within our squad, and while Rob’s appointment is a wonderful recognition of his qualities, it’s also not his responsibility to lead alone which is something we’ve talked about with our senior players.
“Michael and the wider leadership group will have a pivotal role to play in supporting both he and Kurtley in their roles as captain and vice-captain.”
More to come
Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald
Georgina Robinson is the chief rugby reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.