His rugby relationship with Michael Hooper got off to a rocky start, but Bernard Foley now regards his captain as the soul of the NSW Waratahs.
Openside flanker Hooper will bring up his 100th appearance for NSW when he leads the side in Saturday's significant Super Rugby showdown against Australian conference leader Melbourne Rebels at the SCG.
Sydney product Hooper joined the Tahs in 2013 after playing three seasons for the Brumbies.
He quickly became a senior player in the side, leading them to the 2014 Super Rugby title when regular captain Dave Dennis was injured.
Hooper won the Matthew Burke Cup, the Waratahs' players' player award, in each of his first five seasons with the team.
"He's been massive for us, he's probably been the soul of the club," vice-captain and five-eighth Foley said.
"He led the side from his second year to the championship, so he's been really the standard bearer of us at the Waratahs.
"He's been a great example for a lot of the young kids who have come through and played with him and he's got a lot to give as a legacy here at the Waratahs."
While he's now an unabashed admirer of Hooper, Foley was distinctly less complimentary towards the tireless flanker when they first crossed paths in open rugby almost a decade ago.
"I actually sprayed him so he had a big chip on his shoulder," Foley recalled.
"He said 'I think it was you wasn't it?' He tried to chase me around the field, so we didn't start well, but we got over that pretty quickly."
Pressed on what the content of his spray was Foley said: "Him being the superstar getting beaten, but I didn't realise he'd just come back from 12 weeks off injury so it was his first game back, so it was understandable."
Foley admires Hooper's passion for the jersey and immense work rate.
"He buries himself so much in games and then he pulls his head out of a ruck and his eyes are going every which way," Foley said.
Australian Associated Press