Sport Union David Pocock’s retirement shows few of the greats get to leave on their own terms

David Pocock’s retirement shows few of the greats get to leave on their own terms

David Pocock's actions on and off the field mean he will go down as one of the greats of the game. Photo: AAP
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In his final press conference, marking the end of his Super Rugby career, David Pocock perfectly illustrated what his legacy to the game, and Australian sport, would be.

Throughout the 25-minute press conference, Pocock gave honest, considered, and carefully worded responses to every question posed of him.

And then, in an absolute mark of the man, thanked everyone for coming when it wrapped up.

Pocock has firmly secured his place among the greats of the modern game.

Certainly, he’s provided the blueprint for athletes to speak out on matters important to them, and on how to get that message out in a way that doesn’t scream opinionated-sportsperson-on-a-soapbox.

But nor does he shy away from curly questions.

On the topic of whether he had spoken to now-former Wallabies fullback Israel Folau, whose Rugby Australian contract was terminated for a code of conduct breach earlier this month, Pocock’s response was one of sadness, but equally one of opportunity.

“I think, at the end of the day, we’ve got so much more in common than the few things that might divide us,” he said of the former teammate, whose views on homosexuality and same-sex marriage have been diametrically opposed to those of his own.

“We want to create a safe space for people who, when they turn up to play rugby, feel like they can be whoever they are.

“I’ve always said that sport is at its best when it’s inclusive and when it’s actually challenging society to be more inclusive. Rugby’s done a great job over the years of doing that.

“It’s been dealt with now by Rugby Australia, and it’s really sad to see him go, but I hope we can continue with the great work that has been done in creating that safe space.”

He concluded by saying that society needed to work on being kinder and more inclusive, so that the “much bigger issues” in the world, like climate change and ecological crises, could be properly addressed.

To reiterate, this came just minutes after confirming his Super Rugby career was over.

Though his off-field legacy was never in question, his incredible work rate on the field means Pocock will still go down as a modern-day great.

Brumbies CEO Phil Thomson didn’t hesitate in pushing Pocock up into the same class as former Brumbies legends George Gregan, Stephen Larkham, and George Smith.

But sadly, Pocock’s legacy will also be of an injury-plagued second half of his career.

When Pocock debuted, as an 18-year-old with the Western Force late in the 2006 season, he played 69 of a possible 85 games for the Perth-based club.

Unfortunately, that relative durability didn’t follow him east when he joined the Brumbies in 2013.

Back-to-back knee reconstructions restricted him to just five games across 2013 and 2014.


In seven seasons with the Brumbies, Pocock managed just 43 of 100 possible games, including just three of the 13 games played in 2019.

All added up, injury robbed Pocock of his slice of Super Rugby history.

Had his body allowed him to play every game since debut, those 185 games would make him the most capped Australian player in Super Rugby – comfortably surpassing former Wallabies captain and Brumbies teammate Stephen Moore’s 177 games.

And, if Pocock had played through the 2017 season, not undertaking the Rugby Australia-sanctioned sabbatical that took him to his homeland of Zimbabwe for wildlife conservation activities, those additional 16 games would bring that figure to 201.

A record like that would see Pocock joining former Crusaders and All Blacks prop Wyatt Crockett, whose record 202 Super Rugby games he would have equalled today, when the Brumbies run out to face the Sunwolves in Tokyo.

“I’d still love to play this weekend in Japan,” Pocock laughed on Tuesday, when asked if he had any idea of a timeframe for a return to the field.

It only further rammed home the disappointment he feels that he won’t pull the Brumbies jersey on again, and that his body has robbed him of the history his 14-year career could have produced.

Further proof, even, that very few of the modern-day greats get to leave on their own terms.

But that’s David Pocock in a nutshell.

A player who right until the very end, despite playing in one of the toughest positions on the field, was more concerned about teammates and people other than himself.

And of issues much bigger than just his own.