Rugby Union 3 years ago

David Pocock too perfect for words (but not signs)

  • David Pocock too perfect for words (but not signs)

The original title of this column was 'David Pocock is too perfect for this world (and unfortunately probably the Wallabies number 7 jersey too)' - But that didn't fit. Apparently this isn't Buzzfeed.

Over the weekend there were further instances of Pocock being an unreasonably perfect human being. First he scores a hat-trick against the Highlanders, and celebrated with the Auslan sign used to indicate applause - or to say "Yay!"
Then when pundits who don't speak Auslan (or NZSL - the sign has the same meaning in both languages) gave him stick about celebrating with "jazz hands" Pocock politely told them what the gesture actually meant. Despite the fact one columnist had called him a tosser on Twitter.

This isn't unusual for the way the Australian media reacts to pretty much anything Pocock does. The rugby establishment has decided that because of his politics that his every move is suspect. During the game against the Highlanders one commentator kept making jibes about the fact Pocock grows tomatoes and raises chickens - as though most rugby players weren't also farmers a generation ago.

Any other player could have made a weird gesture after scoring a try, and plenty have done it, and no one would have said anything. Pocock does it, suddenly he's a tosser. Add in the "jazz hands" subtext (doing jazz hands, that's a bit gay, Pocock's always pushing that gay thing into rugby...) and you could begin to think that the people who talk or write about the game just don't like him.

They don't like him because he's an avowed feminist, an environmental activist, and speaks frequently and eloquently about the treatment of asylum seekers and LGBT people. He's an intellectual, rather than a bruiser. His politics don't gel with the ones espoused by those who traditionally make money from rugby.

And that's probably going to cost him a shot at the captaincy - and maybe even the hotly contested Wallabies openside spot.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has said Pocock's onfield stand against homophobia wouldn't count against him.

"Are you kidding? Not at all. I love characters," he said.

Note the use of "characters" rather than "people with character" - as though Pocock's staunch activism is eccentricity rather than conviction.

Honestly, I know very little about Micheal Hooper, other than that he's a bloody good player, and every time I write his name I get the E and A the wrong way round. A quick Google brings up nothing about what he thinks of offshore detention centres.

And that's going to have an impact. No matter that the same people who will parrot that politics shouldn't be involved in sport make the political decision to back Hooper. Politics has always been involved in sport, especially rugby. It's worth remembering that just because one person isn't so loud about their politics doesn't mean they don't have them - it's just easier for sponsors and pundits to project their own on top.

Do I think Pocock is amazing because his causes are mine as well? Absolutely. I'm not unbiased in this, and I won't pretend to be. I think some other rugby writers might need to examine their bias as well.

After all, just because you don't want politics to cloud your judgement, doesn't mean you magically become objective. And as some people learned over the weekend, just because someone isn't yelling, doesn't mean they're not also saying something.

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