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Last Updated: Friday, 11 May 2007, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
Jon Wilkin column
Jon Wilkin

By Jon Wilkin
St Helens back row

This week saw the retirement of one of the best overseas players in St Helens history.

Unfortunately for Jason Hooper, a shoulder injury has forced him to call time on a really special career.

Hoops started off at Illawarra in Australia, just after the Second World War, before moving to Saints at the end of 2002.

Jason Hooper
Hooper made his presence felt during his time with St Helens
He signed at the same time as I did and I remember going out for something to eat with both him and Ade Gardner.

Hoops turned up in an luminous orange jumper, tight jeans and these massive trainers.

He also kept uttering the stereotypical Aussie phrase "fair dinkum". (I still don't know what it means, although I think it could be a small animal found in the Aussie bush!)

Gradually, and with the help of his team, Hoops has been transformed into an Englishman.

He now says "Hello, pal" instead of "G'day, mate" and enjoys going out for a pint with friends rather than having a couple of schooners (small thimble-like glasses which Aussies like to drink out of!)

Hoops contributed greatly to the success experienced by Saints over the last few years and brought a tough, uncompromising style of playing to our team.

The biggest compliment I can pay him is that he was a player people hated playing against but a player everyone wanted to play with

The biggest compliment I can pay him is that he was a player people hated playing against but a player everyone wanted to play with.

Hoops will be sorely missed, just like his hair.

If anyone sees any strands of flowing, brown locks blowing in the wind, please return them to Knowsley Road before Jason returns to Australia.

Hoops, you are a great bloke. Everyone connected with St Helens wishes you and your family all the best.


Millennium Magic was such a strange experience for me.

With the stadium only half full, it felt like we were playing in an oversized sports hall, especially with the roof on.

Nick Fozzard
My mate Nick Fozzard gives the thumbs-up to Cardiff
Don't get me wrong, the concept of taking a round of Super League games on the road is a fantastic idea and Cardiff is a great host.

The number of watering holes in close proximity to the stadium obviously helps, too.

But the fans, clubs and players need to be looked after a little better.

For the fans, there's the cost of travelling to Cardiff and the price of the hotels.

For the clubs, there's the loss of income for those who missed out on a money-spinning game on their own patch.

As for the players, from a Saints perspective we got shunted around behind the scenes and struggled to get a seat in the stadium to watch the games before ours.

But the general consensus was that Millennium Magic was enjoyable and definitely worth doing again.


Tonight, my good friend Mark Blanchard has the chance to follow up threats upon my welfare when St Helens play Rochdale in the Carnegie Challenge Cup.

He has assured me that, although I am much faster than him, any clash between the two of us will degenerate into a WWE-type wrestling encounter, minus the tight Spandex.

Knowing Mark, though, the Spandex could be included.



SEE ALSO
Saints' Hooper forced to retire
08 May 07 |  Rugby League
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