Born: 9 January 1988
Junior Club: Silverton (Vic), Ipswich Cats, Ipswich Eagles, Mt.Gravatt
Senior Club: -
Schools: Dandenong West Primary (Vic), Dandenong North Primary (Vic), Cleeland
Regional Selection: Western Taipans
Queensland Selection: U16 (2002), U18 (2005)
Draft Details: Selection #41 (3rd round) 2005 National Draft (Brisbane); Selection #58 (4th round) 2009 National Draft (Hawthorn).
AFL Debut: Brisbane Lions v Essendon, Gabba, Round 2, 2006 (8 April).
Jumper Number: 20
AT A GLANCE: Rhan Hooper is a much-travelled Aboriginal who was born in Charleville, spent his early years in Cunnamulla, did his schooling in the Dandenong district of Melbourne, and is technically a football product of Ipswich after moving ‘home’ to Queensland. Took up the game as a 10-year-old at Silverton Football Club in Dandenong in 1998, and, in a standout junior career, won his League B&F at U10, U11, U12, U13, U14 and U16 level. A product of the Western Taipans, he wore Queensland colors at U15 Schoolboys in 2003 and U16 level in 2004 after playing with the Ipswich Cats and the Ipswich Eagles. He was a member of the 2004 AIS/AFL Academy, touring Ireland alongside fellow Queenslander Daniel Dzufer and subsequent AFL stars Marc Murphy, Joel Selwood, Xavier Ellis, Travis Boak, Clint Bartram, Scott Gumbleton, Patrick Ryder, Lachie Hansen, Grant Birchall and Travis Varcoe, among others. He won Queensland U18 selection as a 17-old in 2005, and after playing senior football at Mt.Gravatt under Michael Gibson in the same year, he was drafted six weeks short of his 18th birthday by the Brisbane Lions at No.41. He was the fourth Queenslander drafted in 2005 behind Courtenay Dempsey (19), Wayde Mills (25) and Sam Gilbert (33), and ahead of Michael West (57) and Austin Lucy (66).
An electrifyingly quick left-footed small forward, with good goal sense and exceptional defensive qualities, he made his AFL debut aged 18 in Round 2 2006 at the Gabba. He played only four games in the first half of the season - Rounds 2-3-4-11 – but aside from a one-game injury layoff he was a fixture in the top side from Round 15. And when he kicked four goals in Round 17 against Essendon in his seventh game there were expectations he was in for a long and bright future. Certainly, 11 games in his debut season after being drafted as a 17-year-old was an outstanding result. But after taking time off during the 2007 pre-season for what were described as “personal issues” he didn’t break into the senior side in his second season until Round 10. Four goals against Carlton in Round 16 followed by three the next week against Collingwood served as a reminder of his unquestioned potential, and, coupled with interest from rival clubs, was enough to earn him a significantly upgraded three-year contract.
He got things on track from the outset in 2008, playing the first 16 games in a row and finishing with 20 of 22, being an emergency selection in Round 17 and Round 22. His defensive work in the forward 50m zone was a feature as he finished fifth in the team in tackles. But as the designated crumbing forward his goal-kicking output of 19 goals in 20 games wasn’t quite what coach Leigh Matthews was looking for despite the fact that he finished fourth on the Lions goal-kicking list behind Jonathan Brown, Daniel Bradshaw and Anthony Corrie, who was subsequently de-listed. The appointment of Michael Voss as the new senior coach for 2009 heralded a new start for the enigmatic youngster, but he struggled at times to meet the commitment levels expected of an AFL player in a stop-start fourth year at the club.
After club suspension over the summer he did exceptionally well to kick six goals in Rounds 1-2, including an equal career-best four in the season-opener in a come-from-behind win over West Coast. He missed four weeks with an ankle injury and had three weeks in the reserves, yet in his comeback game he booted another four goals against North Melbourne in Round 10. But after playing five games in a row he missed the next four through illness and injury, and then spent a month in the reserves. Yet, with the club returning to the finals for the first time since the 2004 grand final, coach Voss took a punt and threw him into the hurly-burly of September. Twice. It was a real mixed bag. In four years he’d played 48 games and kicked 49 goals, including five bags of four, two bags of three and five bags of two. The problem was that in the other 36 games he’d kicked 13 goals. Coupled with further questions over his discipline and commitment it was enough for the club to show him the door despite the fact he had a year to run on his contract. Many feared his AFL career was over, but Hawthorn had faith in what they’d seen on the field and threw him a life-line via selection No.58 in the 2009 National Draft.