David Pocock: More Than a Player

Posted: March 4, 2016 in Uncategorized
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David Pocock installing a mono pump at a borehole on his grandfather’s conservancy in Zimbabwe

David Pocock is mostly known for his work on the playing pitch. He was my pick for Player of the Tournament in last year’s Rugby World Cup, and has been widely acclaimed for his talents. Stephen Larkham has also stated (in a documentary based on Pocock) that Australia had the best defence of any team in that competition because “we had David out there who would eventually steal the ball from the opposition”.

But Pocock is not just a rugby player. He is an activist, and he has long been campaigning for human rights and trying to improve the world, bit by bit.

Pocock was once arrested for taking part in a coal-mining protest in New South Wales after he chained himself to some mining equipment. But he did so knowing full well that he may land in some hot water: “You weigh up the cost of it and whether you think the message is the right thing to do,” Pocock said. “With the coal mining protest, I knew there would be backlash. But I knew signing up with those farmers, it was the right thing to do.”

In a statement, the ARU said: “The Australian Rugby Union has issued a formal written warning to David Pocock following his arrest yesterday. While we appreciate David has personal views on a range of matters, we’ve made it clear that we expect his priority to be ensuring he can fulfil his role as a high-performance athlete. The matter is now subject to legal proceedings, and we will now let the legal process take its course.”

Granted, Pocock could be viewed as bringing the game into disrepute, but he wasn’t starting a fight on the street while intoxicated; he was fighting something far greater and was simply expressing his democratic right to protest.

In March of last year, Pocock complained to the referee that a NSW Waratah’s player made a homophobic slur towards a fellow Brumbies player. Jacques Potgieter owned up (credit where credit is due) and was eventually fined $10,000 by the ARU for using homophobic language.

“It certainly blew up a lot more than what I thought it would,” Pocock said. “I honestly didn’t think it would go past an on-field incident.

“One of the funny things about what happened was that it became that I was pushing the incident. [Brumbies captain] Stephen Moore initially raised it, Scott Fardy mentioned it as well. As players, we’re really keen to make a stand and say that homophobia or any sort of discrimination isn’t acceptable. In the heat of battle, for you to dig deep and that’s the worst thing you can come up with, that’s a pretty sad reflection of our culture.”

The back-rower has long been a campaigner for same-sex marriage, and has stated the he will not wed until the laws are changed an inclusive. So I doubt the flak he received would have bothered him very much. However, the idea of shining a light on homophobia in sport was ideal.

“Sport is at its best when it’s challenging society to become more inclusive. The more of those conversations we have, the better. There’s a lot of young players out there struggling with their sexuality and they need to at least have a safe environment to enjoy themselves on the sports-field. It’s been a cultural thing, but I think we’re starting to see a shift and that’s really exciting for me.”

But it doesn’t end there. Pocock, whose family was forced to flee Zimbabwe when he was young, has his own charity set up in his native land named eightytwentyvision.org, which looks to improve maternal care and health, child nutrition, farming, and care for HIV sufferers. This charity is funded not only by donations, but a part of his salary as well.

“It’s pretty dire in Zimbabwe and I’ve always wanted to make a difference.

“When you stay in a rural area in Zimbabwe, you see the reality of how much people are battling in their way of life.

“I visited hospitals and met elders from the villages to start building a bit of a relationship,” Pocock said of his visit to the villages.

“There are demonstration farming plots in the villages where the local farmers are invited to see the benefits of non-traditional methods.

“Seed is planted over a much smaller area so a mother, with AIDS, and her kids can do that whereas getting behind a plough and oxen is unrealistic for them.

“You get to understood what a difference a daily bowl of corn soybean porridge can make to nutrition and learning amongst 4000 kids.”

David Pocock is not your average player. He is so much more. He is a people person, one who genuinely cares for others, regardless of sexual preference or social standing. He stands up for what he believes in, and is not afraid to face the consequences.

When asked if the coal-mining arrest would affect playing international rugby, he replied “If that was going to jeopardise playing for the Wallabies, that’s how it was going to be”, when the majority of others would be nervous to rock the boat.

Pocock has a lot of rugby left to play, and will no doubt captain Australia again someday. But it’s outside rugby where he will make his biggest hits.

Photo credit to The Western Australian

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