Pocock finds inspiration in the little things

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

David Pocock’s favourite bird is the crested barbet.

A native African bird with a speckled red and yellow face, its bulging chest makes it difficult to fly, instead travelling in short bursts with plenty of energy.

It has a shrill call and finds aggression when faced with other birds in their territory and despite being just 23 cm tall, have been recorded as having attacked and killed rats and snakes.

“It's a pretty scruffy looking bird with a lot of attitude,” Pocock explains.

“I don’t know if there’s a connection but I always used to be amused watching them as a kid.

“My grandfather was a bird feeder and everyone would be just chilling out taking their bit.

“Then in flies the crested barbet and it’d be like bossing birds around and doing its own thing.

“I always thought that was pretty cool.”

It’s not an easy call for him to make - there are 694 species of bird in his birth country, Zimbabwe, and he admits to having a love of many feathered creatures.

“I love my birds,” he says.

“It’s a bit weird.”

While he doesn’t necessarily feel a personal affinity with the barbet, it’s hard not to draw a parallel as an external observer between a creature that beats to its own drum and Pocock, who has never been labelled traditional.

That rugby is just one element of Pocock’s outlook on life is no secret - the 27-year-old is well-known for his social activism and involvement in charity.

It’s a thirst for learning that has reminded him of the importance of maintaining perspective and an outlet outside of sport.

“Spending the two years on the sidelines with the injuries reinforced how important it (perspective) is and how interesting life is, I guess and how much is going on and how much there is to learn,” he said.

“I certainly want to make the most of the rugby opportunities but also learn about other things and enjoy other things along the way.”

One of the endeavours he is pursuing outside of rugby is his love of photography.

While in London, Pocock has had some opportunities to experiment with some lenses and technology from tournament sponsor Canon.

He seeks advice on photography from the regular snappers around the team and posted some of his shots on Instagram from a training session during the quarter-final week when he was battling injury.

Pocock owns a 'prosumer' camera and is eagerly anticipating a post-tournament visit to Zimbabwe to visit family.

It’s in Zimbabwe where he took one of his most memorable photos, of a different type of bird.

“I took a cool photo of a blue waxbill,” he said.

“It’s like this tiny little bird, in rural Zimbabwe. I grew up loving these birds, they’re so cute and they really are tiny.”

While Pocock is viewed as a variation from the norm of the notional “footballer” idea, he sees it more that his interests are just different to the man next to him.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika spoke earlier this week of the diversity of his squad, with “lovers, jokers and fighters” and Pocock echoed the view of his coach.

“I’ve certainly never bought into the stereotype of sports people just being robots that can only do one thing,” he said.

“I think it’s very untrue.

“You look at our group and guys have a heap of interests outside of rugby and I think it’s really healthy.

“At times it’s pretty consuming, you can get caught up in this bubble that is important and a big part of your life but in the grand scheme of things we live a pretty privileged existence as players.”

Stephen Moore captains Pocock at the Wallabies and the Brumbies and earlier this week he lauded the flanker’s off-field qualities.

“I think people talk a lot about his footy but he’s a quality person off the field as well. He adds a lot to our team away from the field,” he said.

“That’s what we’re finding as well - there’s a very diverse range of characters (in this team).

“Some guys are carting around on segways after the game and he’s and he’s watching David Attenborough in his room.”

There is no questioning Pocock’s passion for his team or his sport, that he has previously said is a great leveller.

Pocock’s nose had a seemingly constant stream of blood after being broken not once but twice against Argentina, leaving him with two kaleidoscopically bruised eyes.

And Saturday will be the realisation of a dream first sparked as a seven-year-old in Zimbabwe.

Pocock watched South Africa beat New Zealand in extra time, at that time aspiring to be a Springbok, but ultimately just wanting to play in a World Cup decider.

That he could have the same impact on children like him two decades on is not lost on Pocock.

“That’s the reality of it,” he says.

“My partner Em was saying that to me a couple of days ago, how crazy it was.

“For me as a kid watching the World Cup and being so enthralled by it and I was now one of those players who was playing.

“It’s incredibly exciting and it’s a great privilege to have kids (watching).

“I know there’s a lot of Zimbabwean kids who’ll be cheering on the Wallabies come Saturday and obviously hundreds of thousands if not millions of Australians so that’s very cool.”