Pocock sabbatical a rare case: Cheika

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

David Pocock’s flexible contract is the first of its kind for an Australian player and Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says it’s unlikely to set a precedent for others.

Pocock has signed a three-year deal with the Brumbies and the ARU, with a built-in sabbatical season in 2017, before he returns to Australia in 2018.

The move is not an entirely pioneering one - former All Blacks stars Richie McCaw and Dan Carter both took sabbaticals through their careers - but Cheika said it was likely to stay an unusual one.

“Most (players) if anything are  looking to play more seasons so they can make a little bit more money,” he said.

“One of the big things we work out is embracing individual character within our team and this is what we know David’s character leads him to want to do.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen a lot but I think when it’s given and presented in the way that his manager presented it to us it was a pretty compelling argument to go with it.”

That it was the first of its kind made the negotiations more complex but Cheika said they were always working towards a common goal.

“I think you’ve got to respect people’s reasons and he had some very compelling arguments around why he wanted to have some time off and you’ve got to respect that,” he said.

“I didn’t feel like it was very hard to convince me that that was a good move.”

Pocock has already proven his ability to return to peak form after long absences from the game, with his dominant 2015 season coming off the back of two knee reconstructions, and Cheika expects the same in 2018.

“You’d want to think that he’s going to be better,” he said.

“It’s going to bring him that little bit of extra freshness when the time comes. 

“He’s already had a couple of breaks through injury unfortunately but each time he’s come back he’s been better than before.”

Cheika said he hadn’t spoken to Pocock about his plans for 2017 but there wasn’t any pressure for the backrower to decide.

“I don’t think he even knows what (his plans are), he’s just going to take his time,” he said.

“He’s very focused on what he’ going to do this year and I think that’s the key thing. 

“He knows what his timeline is going to look like and it’s just a matter of focusing on his footy as it comes up now.

“There’s no rush for him to get organised.”

As for 2016, Cheika said the knowledge that  Pocock will be in green and gold for the long term would bring a smile for Aussie fans.

“To have a guy like David being involved over the next few years is going to be a real bonus for everyone watching the game both here and abroad.

“Probably more of a smile on the face of our supporters than the opposition.”

Pocock said he was grateful for the willingness of his club and country to work with him.

“I think it’s one of those things you want to get done before the season starts but sometimes  that doesn’t happen," he said.

“The Brumbies and ARU have been really good to work with and come to terms and sign the deal.”