David Pocock wants to be a real athlete, a step away from ‘overly curated’ Instagram accounts and cliches.
That’s no revelation, really, but it’s an approach that has been inspired by Paralympian Kurt Fearnley, whose words have helped Pocock make it through a horrific run of injuries.
Fearnley is one of Australia’s most successful athletes, a multi-marathon winner and three-time Paralympic gold medallist, most recently winning silver in the Rio wheelchair marathon.
Pocock read Fearnley’s biography while he was working through consecutive knee reconstructions and Fearnley passed on a note, via Brumbies rehab coach Ben Serpell, on the eve of the backrower’s return.
He again leaned on Fearnley’s philosophy last month, accompanied by a gruesome Instagram post of his broken hand mid-surgery, exposing the injury right down to the bone.
Gutted to miss the rest of the #RugbyChampionship. Back in Canberra to work hard and hopefully be available for spring tour. I can't say it better than @kurtfearnley so thought I'd just quote him here: "Some of the most memorable moments are the hardest moments and they're the things that you eventually become most proud of. You know, those days when you wake up and you win, they're awesome, they're the easy days. But those where you wake up and you can barely drag yourself out of bed, where you're in so much pain and discomfort where you're mentally just trying to grind yourself to just believe, you know, they're the tough days and they're the ones that I'm proud of." Thanks to all the surgeons, Doctors and nurses who looked after me at late notice. I am so grateful I have access to world class care.
Fearnley’s passion and drive through adversity has been a yardstick for Pocock, who has never shied away from a point of difference.
“I don't know, there's plenty of cliched 'take the money' athletes out there and to see someone like Kurt, he's just real,” he said.
“He tells it how it is and he just lets the raw emotion be seen and I think that's pretty special and pretty rare now.”
Acutely aware of his profile, Pocock says he doesn’t want to hide behind a social media facade
“I guess, like it or not, you're a role model to kids. I remember being a kid and idolising guys who played for the Springboks or the Wallabies,” he said.
“I guess you're conscious of that and you want to just try and be yourself.
“I think there's a lot of overly curated Instagram accounts and all the rest.
“It's pretty easy to hide behind that. We're all guilty of it.
“To try and actually, not just show the glamorous, cool stuff but some of the other stuff.
“I don't know how exactly to do that but I guess that's the challenge.”
While showing the world an unedited version of yourself might be something Pocock is not entirely sure how to conquer, it’s a task that just might be topped by the riddle that surrounds the All Blacks’ mystique at Eden Park.
Pocock wouldn’t speculate on the effect of the looming Test winning record would have on their opponents, but that he could almost immediately recall the Springboks 1997 team that reached 17, reflected the history wrapped up in a record streak.
“I remember as a kid watching South Africa going for 18 with Gary Teichmann [as captain], that team,” he said.
“It's a pretty special milestone to get to.”
“Their form would suggest that they haven't taken a step back (this year).”
Pocock has ticked all the boxes on his way to a Bledisloe return, surviving the Wallabies’ biggest training day on Tuesday, as he returns from that broken hand.
Sean McMahon sat out Wallabies training on Tuesday, after describing himself as a ‘long shot’ to make the cut for Eden Park, on the recovery from ankle syndesmosis.