Rucks and mauls to political brawls, meet Senator Pocock
David Pocock didn’t seem overly worried on the phone from the Australian capital of Canberra, although more than two weeks have passed since the country’s federal election and the retired rugby star still doesn’t know if she has a new job in Politics.
An outstanding backrower in international rugby from 2008 to 2019, he patiently awaited the call that would confirm whether he could officially call himself Senator David Pocock.
“It takes time, but I’m confident we’ll hear something this week,” Pocock told The Associated Press. “I think about 90% of the votes are in favour.”
He had to wait a bit longer – confirmation came on Tuesday, more than three weeks after the May 21 election.
“We have officially made history! Thank you all,” Pocock said in a tweet. “What a huge honor to be able to serve the people of ACT as a Senator.”
Pocock, 34, became one of two senators to represent the Australian Capital Territory which includes Canberra for a three-year term. And that makes him one of 76 senators in the upper house of the Australian Parliament.
More importantly, Pocock’s victory took a seat from the former ruling conservative Liberal Party and broke a duopoly the major parties had over ACT Senate seats. Campaigning on many issues supported by independent politicians in the lower house, Pocock could on some issues be the 39th critical seat the Australian Labor Party, which won the general election, needs to pass legislation.
The career move comes as no real surprise – social justice and the environment were two of Pocock’s causes when he was still playing rugby – 78 test matches for Australia, including three World Cups and a stint in as captain of the Wallabies, and more than 130 games in Super-Rugby. He also played three seasons for the Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan before announcing his retirement in October 2020.
Pocock wasn’t afraid to show his activism even while he was playing. In 2014, while under contract with the Canberra Brumbies in Super Rugby, he was arrested after he chained himself to an excavator in protest at the opening of a coal mine in a state forest.
“I would do this regardless of my career,” Pocock told the media upon his arrest. “It’s part of being a human being and dealing with the challenges we face as a society.”
Pocock’s charge was dismissed several months later and no convictions have been entered. But the sport’s national governing body issued him a warning.
So his transition into politics as an independent senator should be pretty seamless, though he says it’s not like he thinks politics is unfinished business for him.
“No, not at all,” Pocock said. “When I retired from rugby I felt it was time to move on and contribute to other areas. A number of people in Canberra asked me, and I’m so grateful for the opportunities Australia has given me, I see this as another way to contribute now that my rugby days are over.
Pocock was born in South Africa but moved to Zimbabwe at an early age and first played rugby there aged 12. His family emigrated to Australia in 2002 when he was a teenager, but he has not forgotten his South African roots – one of his charities, Eightytwenty Vision, helps destitute people in Zimbabwe.
He supported gay marriage in Australia. He and his partner Emma, who was arrested with Pocock during the coal mine protest, held a wedding ceremony in 2010, but they had refused to sign paperwork that would make their marriage legal until that their homosexual friends have the same legal rights. After Australia enacted a law allowing same-sex marriage in 2017, Emma and David Pocock made their marriage official in 2018.
Pocock said one of his first actions as a senator would be a land rights bill, giving the ACT Legislature the right to legislate on issues such as voluntary assistance in dying. . All six Australian states already have the right to pass such legislation.
“The vast majority of ACT people support this; I think it’s overdue,” he said. “It makes no sense in 2022 that the Territory doesn’t have the same rights as the states. It’s about not treating Australians who live in the Territories as second-class citizens.
Pocock says his rugby days helped prepare him for life as a politician.
“I think there are a lot of things that transfer. . . you don’t get to choose who’s on your team, there’s a lot of people with different backgrounds, belief systems and political leanings,” Pocock said. “You are there united by a common goal and you forge strong bonds and realize that we have much more in common than your differences.”
“And of course you really put yourself out there,” he added, “but most people appreciate the risk you’re taking.”
Pocock joins other sports stars who have entered the world of politics, including Manny Pacquiao, the world champion boxer turned senator in the Philippines, and Imran Khan, who led the Pakistan cricket team to an unlikely title World Cup in 1992 and later became the country’s first. minister for nearly four years.
But Pocock says there is a big difference between sport and politics.
“Criticism can be on another level when you play sports, but you get criticized, you have a good game and it goes away,” Pocock said. “In politics, you will always be criticized. It’s part of the job.”
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