THREE-MINUTE BIOGRAPHY: Former rugby star David Pocock has a new power game

Headshot of Malcolm Quekett
Malcolm Quekett
The Nightly
Independent ACT senator David Pocock has taken to the halls of Parliament like he did a rugby field as a Wallaby - and this upcoming election may be his political World Cup.
Independent ACT senator David Pocock has taken to the halls of Parliament like he did a rugby field as a Wallaby - and this upcoming election may be his political World Cup. Credit: Supplied/The Nightly

What characterises a rugby player?

There’s no doubt they are tough. You have to be to consider it fun to run straight at other players who may well do you serious harm.

Powerful? Yes. Tree trunks and legs come to mind.

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Skilled? For sure. Have a go at catching a ball spinning rapidly towards you while also trying to sidestep an oncoming steamroller dressed in a rugby jumper.

So let’s see what adjectives we can apply to David Pocock, former rugby international-turned key Independent senator, back when he was still strapping on the boots in his usual position of flanker, or No. 8.

Website Rugby Bricks says “a flanker must read the game, anticipate the opposition’s moves, and react accordingly”.

“The mentality of a successful flanker is one of tenacity and resilience. They are often in the thick of the action and must make split-second decisions that can change the course of the game. “

RugbyPass’ description of a No. 8 includes: “They are good readers of the game . . . have very good communication skills, be mentally and physically tough and have good anticipation.”

Yep. Step up, David Pocock. That sounds exactly what he will need now he has taken on a new battle off the field.

The site Classic Wallabies says “David Pocock was, as Winston Churchill once famously said (about Russia), ‘a riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’.”

“Outside the game, Pocock was well-known for his social activism, involvement in charity, views on conservation, and a passion for nature that comes from his ‘idyllic’ early childhood in Africa.

“His heroes included Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and radical Christian feminist Dorothy Day.”

Pocock’s own site says he grew up on a farm outside of Gweru, Zimbabwe, and began playing rugby at school.

Aged 14, with his family, he moved to Brisbane after their farm was taken in the Zimbabwe Government’s land reform.

David Pocock of Australia warms up prior to the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group D game between Australia and Georgia at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa on October 11, 2019 in Fukuroi, Shizuoka, Japan.
David Pocock is one of the greats of the Wallabies team. Credit: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

He then joined Western Force in Perth. In 2008 he captained the Australian under-20s at the Junior World Championships, and made his Wallabies debut.

He went on to win 83 Test caps, won the John Eales Medal — Australian rugby’s most prestigious best-player award — twice (2010 and 2018), played in three World Cup campaigns (2011, 2015 and 2019), and captained the Wallabies in 2012 at the age of 23.

That year he was also named WA Young Australian of the Year.

The citation observed that he had “never forgotten the struggles of the poor in his birthplace” which led to he and a close friend establishing Eightytwenty Vision, a charitable foundation to help underprivileged people in rural Zimbabwe.

David Pocock
David Pocock Credit: Unknown/Facebook

Among them was FrontRunners, which works alongside athletes and sporting organisations to tackle climate and environmental challenges.

As part of that work, Pocock drove The Cool Down, which saw more than 470 Australian athletes from more than 40 sports urge Australia to lift its climate ambitions.

He has taken direct action too: In 2014, he was arrested after chaining himself to a digger in protest against a new coal mine in NSW.

And so perhaps it should have been no surprise when he announced in December 2021 his intention to run for the senate as a voice for those who were sick of “politics as usual” — subsequently becoming the first ever Independent ACT senator at the 2022 Federal election.

His voice has since been heard on a range of matters.

Pocock and the Jacqui Lambie Network combined to help pass the same job, same pay provisions of the Closing Loopholes Bill.

Pocock has also said he supported tightening negative gearing and has added his voice to calls for the Government to address Indigenous deaths in custody and the removal of First Nations children from families.

He could also play a key role in the polarised debate over critical minerals and green hydrogen tax breaks pledged in the Federal Budget.

As the next election comes nearer and the Government and Opposition’s positions become more entrenched, we might well be paying even more attention to his voice.

And his rugby attributes are likely to come in for plenty of extra use.

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