For new Melbourne Rebels hooker, Declan Moore, gaining his first Super Rugby contract has been a journey filled with heartbreak and setbacks.
In some ways, Moore could’ve been a more recognised name in Australian rugby if it wasn’t for two cruel events which held the now 23-year-old back from fulfilling his playing potential sooner.
Moore is a hulking hooker who weighs in at 112kgs, yet he is also a very mobile rake given his 184cm stature.
A talented and prodigious young player who hails from New Zealand, Moore moved to Australia at an early age and played the game as a South Coogee Red Devils junior before eventually making a name for himself at Sydney University Rugby Club.
After dominating schoolboy rugby for St Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney and winning two junior premierships with ‘the Students’, Moore would go on to be selected in New South Wales’ 2016 Under 20’s team in his first year out of school.
Following impressive performances for his state, Moore achieved every schoolboy rugby players’ dream of being selected in the Australian Under 20’s squad for the Oceania Championships on the Gold Coast.
Moore was then named in the first-round side to face the Baby All Blacks, which should have been the start of his representative career for Australia.
Yet on the eve of such an important clash, his dream turned into a very surreal nightmare.
“I was named to play in the first game against New Zealand, which I was incredibly excited about,” Moore said.
“We were having our Captain’s Run the night before the match and in a freak accident, I got tackled and someone landed on my ankle a bit funny.
“Then I tried to stand up, but fell straight down and the doctor came, tried to assess the injury and my ankle just fell apart in his hands.
“I was then rushed back up to Brisbane that night to have my ankle put back together.
“That was a really tough pill to swallow at the time, I was absolutely shattered to miss the World Champs in Manchester, so it took me quite a while to come back from that.”
After working through some painstaking rehabilitation on his injured ankle, Moore would return to rugby a full year later in 2018 to play with local Club side Sydney University.
With Moore aiming to re-build his fitness and skill through the second-grade competition, the young hooker had hopes that the year may become a solid foundation to re-launch his plans of playing rugby at a high level.
However, after only playing several games in his initial return from injury, disaster struck for the second time in a very familiar place.
“In 2018, I thought this is my year, I’m going to give it a good crack,” Moore said.
“Yet the same thing happened to me again where I snapped my ankle in a match, and I knew I had a long road ahead of me again and I managed to come through ok.
“It was tough sitting on the sidelines while watching the Club have that success by winning a premiership for the first time in a few years (but) it made me keener and more eager to get me back out on the field and really give it a crack for the 2019 season.”
Two harrowing injuries down but possessing a never-say-die attitude, Moore overcame his second ankle injury to become a regular feature in Sydney University’s Shute Shield side for 2019.
Moore then tasted the ultimate success, by winning the Shute Shield premiership as a starting hooker in ‘the Students’’ stunning Grand Final triumph over Warringah.
Moore’s joy of flag success then snowballed into an NRC squad selection with Sydney Rugby Union, where the hooker impressed with his heavy ball carrying ability, intensity around the field and big hitting ability.
Then his biggest career move-to-date came knocking when Moore was subsequently signed and recruited by the Melbourne Rebels, with the front rower now forming the Club’s trio of hookers which include World Cup Capped Victorian Jordan Uelese and Super Rugby star Anaru Rangi.
It’s been a thoroughly well-deserved professional contract for Moore, who says he’s happy to call the Rebels home.
“My first impression of the Rebels has been really welcoming and I love the warmth that surrounds the place,” Moore said.
“Everyone’s been really accommodating by coming up and saying hello and introducing themselves and there hasn’t been a disparity between the players, coaches and commercial staff, everyone is just like one big family.”
Now he’s finally in a professional side, Moore can show off the talent which could have brought him into this environment a lot earlier bar for his unlucky setbacks.
And given how determined he has been in getting to the point that he’s in now, Moore has deeply set his sights on earning a Super Rugby Cap.
“Hopefully this time next year, I want to have gotten on the field to play one game for Melbourne,” Moore said.
“But if it doesn’t happen, then I want to learn as much as I can to become a better footy player.”