Definitely a Wallaby, but always a Zim Farm Boy
by Cheryl Goodenough
The current life of Wallaby flanker Dave Pocock is a far cry from his childhood when he grew up on a Zimbabwe farm. Nevertheless, the 21 year old relishes life in Australia and, while he truly considers himself an Australian, there is still a place in his heart for Zimbabwe.
Daves parents farmed about 30km outside Gweru in the Midlands of Zimbabwe, but were forced to leave and the farm taken away from them in 2001. During the time they were there the political situation deteriorated and things got ugly. In one attack a neighbouring farmer was killed and his son seriously injured.
Media reports describe how Dave aged 12 at the time took to sleeping with a gun under his bed, in case it was needed to help protect his own family. Dave chuckles when asked about this story thats often told in the media, and says that he has got somewhat tired of this story being told. It was all the media in the United Kingdom wanted to talk about, but it really was nothing out of the ordinary in Zim for a farm boy to have a gun of his own.
But life in Zimbabwe is rather hard to explain, he says. There were a lot of death threats, but we were pretty lucky to be able to leave. I am so glad we had the opportunity to get out.
Appreciative of the new life that his family has been able to make in Australia, Dave says that it was the farm workers who had nowhere to go who probably suffered the most when the farmers were forced to leave.
I find it very disturbing how the western media get all up in arms when white people die anywhere, be it in Zimbabwe, other parts of Africa, Afghanistan or elsewhere yet the thousands of black people who are killed or die from the effects of poverty on a daily basis arent even worthy of a story in the eyes of the western media, he says.
The Pocock family had applied for permanent residency in Australia before leaving the farm, but lived in Port Alfred in South Africas Eastern Cape for some months until their application was accepted.
A tough start
In September 2002 they arrived in Brisbane and Dave and his two younger brothers started school at the Anglican Church Grammar School.
It was a tough start as they knew a few people in Brisbane, but didnt have any family in Australia. Dave was 14 years when the family arrived and he says that he enjoyed it from the start. It will always be tough, but the best thing for me was going straight into school and getting into sport here. I then made friends through my sport. We were also really looking forward to coming over here after everything that had happened in Zim. It was quite a relief to be in Australia.
Dave says that he has a great respect for his parents who made the decision to undertake such a big move. For any family the kids get on with it. Its the parents who have to start again. They lose their friends and the history that they have. I really have a lot of respect for my parents, and thank them for making that decision to move here.
His parents now run their own flower growing and distribution business in Brisbane.
Making rugby his career
While Dave played any sport that was going, rugby has always been his preference. He played for provincial teams while in junior school and ex-Springbok skipper Bob Skinstad was his childhood hero.
Making it onto the A team at Churchie, Dave decided in about Year 10 that he wanted to try and make rugby his career. It has been said that Dave has shown many similar traits to Skinstad, having been ear-marked as a leader at an early age, twice leading sides to Britain, firstly with the Australian team for the Under 20 World Cup and with a Western Force development squad. He made his debut for Australia on the Wallabies 2008 Spring Tour.
Growing up I had always wanted to play for the Springboks, but when we moved to Australia I made a decision to support the Wallabies and I consider myself an Australian now.
Is it difficult to play against the Springboks? I dont really think about it too much. I think that its extra special though to hear the South African anthem. It is a great honour to play against teams that have so much history.
Dave has really enjoyed his rugby career becoming part of the Western Force and starting to get more game time with the Wallabies -- so far. Asked about his career goals, he replies: I obviously enjoy winning so the goal is definitely to win some silverware at Super 14 and international level.
Daves best rugby moment
But his best moment in rugby so far is a really poignant one. One of my most special moments was beating the Bulls at Loftus in 2007 for the fact that my grandfather was there in the crowd. He grew up in Pretoria and has been a Bulls supporter all his life. Before the game he told me he was fully supporting the Force. It was a very special moment to see him afterwards and how happy and proud he was.
Daves advice to up and coming rugby players is to work hard, but also remember that it is so important to enjoy the journey and to have a balance in life. That was the one thing that I was lacking during my last few years at school. I was so focused on playing professional rugby but thats one thing that John Mitchell at the Force has really taught me is about having a balance being focused on the sport, but also spending time with family and friends and getting away from rugby. That way you enjoy it more, and it becomes less of a grind.
Daves grandfather and uncle are still farming in Zimbabwe and he has been back to visit during December for the past three years. Its sad to see how bad the situation has got, especially economically. It is starting to get a bit better, but its sad to see how far its gone.
However, Daves also amazed to see how people who have very little, can still be happy and how, out of necessity, they do make a plan. Thats the thing about Zimbabweans and South Africans and thats why they achieve in Australia because they are prepared to do anything and to work hard.
Community development work in Zimbabwe
In some ways Daves heart is still in Zimbabwe, and he and a friend, Australian Luke OKeefe, have started an organisation called Eightytwenty Vision that currently supports community development work in Zimbabwe.
They are supporting an organisation that runs a community development program in Nkayi, caring for people with AIDS, has a school feeding program, does projects relating to farming in a more sustainable way, and works with issues relating to womens rights and inheritance.
The organisation has been operating for about two years. Dave and Luke have been assisting them for the past year. About this work, Dave says: Eightytwenty Vision for me is about opening our eyes to see how other people are living, realising that the majority of our world is facing a very bleak reality and then look for ways to bring change.
Dave and Lukes goal for the organisation is to have an impact on the Nkayi community with a bottom-up approach: Empowering people to lift themselves out of poverty, rather than developing a hand-out mentality where people just expect to have everything given to them.
So where is Dave when hes not playing rugby? He enjoys reading and hanging out with friends. Ive made some good friends in Perth, he says. And Ive recently tried to take up surfing, he adds, with a laugh. Im not great being a farm boy from Zim, of course but it is great to be out there.
From Daves favourite quotes
There is no way to peace. Peace is the way. A.J. Muste
We must beware of those who decry the visible forms of violence such as terrorism while perpetrating the invisible, systemic forms of violence that generate the very phenomena they abhor. From Violence by Slavoj Zizek. Says Dave: I think this is so relevant in an age where western governments are largely run by multinational corporations and seem to be spinning an awful lot of propaganda to support their policies, then using fear of terrorism as a major tool in their governments election campaigns. Capitalist western democracies certainly have a lot for which to answer.
On Daves book shelf
Dave recently read Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein: A very disturbing book, but one everyone should read.
The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne is one of his favourite books.
About Dave Pocock
Date of Birth April 23, 1988
Super 14 Team Western Force, joined in 2006
Super 1214 Points 5 (1 try)
Super 1214 Caps 38
Test Caps 15
Test Debut 2008 v New Zealand, Hong Kong