David Pocock’s celebrated 15-year rugby career has come to an end after the former Wallabies captain announced his retirement from the professional game.
After calling time on his international career after last year’s World Cup, Pocock still had a year to play with Japanese side the Panasonic Wild Knights. However, the openside flanker has today decided to hang up his boots and focus on pursuing his conservational interests instead.
“Rugby has given me so much opportunity. From a start at the Western Force to my years at the ACT Brumbies and the Panasonic Wild Knights, I’m so grateful for the community each of those clubs provided me and the skills I was able to develop,” Pocock said.
“I’m also very grateful for all the coaches, medical staff and administrators who’ve made my career possible. The biggest thanks, though, goes to all the teammates I’ve had throughout the years.
“I hope to keep contributing to rugby through involvement in grassroots programs in both Western Australia and Zimbabwe.”
One of the finest flankers to ever grace a rugby field, particularly on the defensive side of the ball and at the breakdown, Pocock won two John Eales Medals and represented Australia in three World Cups, playing a starring role in two of them.
In 2011, his performance in the quarter-final against the Springboks almost single-handedly hauled the Wallabies into the final four, while his outings in 2015 – coming out of position at the back of the scrum wearing the number eight jersey – helped Australia not just out of their ‘group of death’, but also into a shock final appearance against the All Blacks.
Born in Zimbabwe, Pocock grew up dreaming of playing for the Springboks before moving with his family to Brisbane as a child. After being signed by the Western Force, he made his professional rugby debut against the Sharks in 2006 and played 69 matches for the club until 2012. During this time, he earned his first Wallaby appearance as a substitute in a Barbarians match in 2008.
In 2010, he won his first John Eales medal after a standout season, and was also an IRB international player of the year finalist that year and the year after. In 2012, aged just 23, he was handed the Wallabies captaincy after an injury to regular skipper James Horwill.
Pocock moved to the Brumbies in 2013, however a series of knee injuries, a year away from the game, and concussion and calf issues later on limited him to 43 appearances with the side before he announced his retirement from Super Rugby and Tests in 2019.
Pocock has been vocal throughout his career about social and particularly environmental issues, and his focus on conservation will come as little surprise given he is currently studying for a masters of sustainable agriculture.
“I’ve just started the Rangelands Restoration Trust and we have been working on our first project, which is in southern Zimbabwe. We’re working to build land use models that regenerate degraded rangelands, while creating wildlife habitat and improving the prosperity of people who depend on the land for their livelihoods. This kind of regenerative agriculture is a critical tool in the midst of the climate and extinction crises we are facing,” Pocock said.
“The looming climate and biodiversity crises make building better ways of organising our lives, our communities and our societies more urgent than ever. Our wellbeing is tied up with nature as we are part of nature. The work of restoring rangelands provides really important benefits in terms of biodiversity and carbon sequestration as well as the opportunity to meaningfully improve the prosperity of communities.”