Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Pocock eager to make his mark off the field

Pocock eager to make his mark off the field

Wed Feb 22, 2012 3:02pm GMT

By Ian Ransom

Feb 22 (Reuters) – A child of evicted Zimbabwean farmers, David Pocock 
arrived in Australia with a few suitcases and a broken dream to play rugby 
for South Africa, a refugee from the violent and chaotic land grabs overseen 
by president Robert Mugabe at the turn of the century.

A decade on, the curly-haired 23-year-old delights in returning to the 
strife-torn country his family fled, where he helps develop poverty-stricken 
communities in which his exploits as Australia flanker are virtually 

The charity EightyTwenty Vision he founded with his friend Luke O’Keefe in 
2009 focuses on lifting living standards of two wards in Nkayi, a rural 
centre of some 120,000 people in western Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland North 

The communities, like many in landlocked Zimbabwe, have suffered under 
Mugabe’s tumultuous regime and remain vulnerable to food shortages, 
malnutrition and the spread of HIV.

“In the grand scheme of things, our work is very small but the results we’ve 
seen so far are very encouraging,” Pocock told Reuters in an interview.

“On the ground things are beginning to improve for the community. Most 
noticeably, there’s a sense that things are starting to happen and there is 

“The community is starting to use its own initiative, whereas in the past, 
given the political and economic situation, it was very easy to feel there 
was not too much light at the end of the tunnel.”

Pocock, born in Gweru, capital of neighbouring Midlands province, remembers 
the turmoil of his last years in Zimbabwe vividly.

The economic anarchy that saw white farmers evicted from their lands, often 
by marauding mobs claiming to be civil war victims demanding compensation, 
engulfed the Pocock family and led to the deaths of neighbours.

“Our land was acquired by the government,” said Pocock, who arrived in 
Brisbane at the age of 14, with his family, 10 or 12 suitcases and “not much 

“Once we moved off the farm we lived in town for about a year but really 
farming was our livelihood and mum and dad didn’t really want to do anything 
else, so we decided to leave.

“There were a couple of farmers in the area that were killed and I guess 
there was a lot of lawlessness, violence and intimidation. The vast majority 
was directed toward farm workers but there were a few white farmers 


His father worked odd jobs to get the family back on their feet in Brisbane 
and Pocock was awarded a sports scholarship to Anglican Church Grammar, a 
renowned breeding ground for elite rugby players, where he played in the 
school’s first 15 with Wallabies flyhalf Quade Cooper.

The softly-spoken Pocock, remains something of an anomaly among the richly 
talented band of Wallabies youngsters, and keeps a lower profile than some 
of his team mates who have struggled to balance responsibility with the 
trappings of celebrity.

New Zealand-born Cooper was charged with burglary over the theft of laptops 
from a residence in the Gold Coast in 2009, while fellow Wallabies backs 
James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale have garnered media attention for off-field 

Pocock is no darling of the tabloid editors, however, and has felt compelled 
to use his profile to make a difference.

“I think sport has a huge role to play in society in terms of trying to 
break down stereotypes in a whole range of social issues,” he said

“You hear people say: ‘I never chose to be a role model, I just want to play 
sport.’ But just by being in the public and having a profile they are role 
models. I think with playing sport at an elite level comes that 

Pocock’s bid to break down stereotypes has seen him take a stand on gay 
marriage, which remains illegal in Australia, though same sex couples have 
equal rights to heterosexuals under other areas of the law.

He and his wife Emma held a wedding ceremony in 2010 but have refused to 
register it until same-sex couples are permitted to marry.

“I heard someone saying that marriage has become a bit like a country club 
where they still don’t accept blacks or Jews, it’s sort of a fairly 
exclusive club,” he said.

Pocock’s personal integrity, along with his ball-poaching prowess at the 
breakdown, has seen him awarded the captaincy of Perth-based Super Rugby 
franchise Western Force in the southern hemisphere’s provincial competition 
this year, taking over from long-serving lock Nathan Sharpe.

Pundits have touted the player as a future Wallabies captain, which would be 
welcomed by local rugby fans who have delighted in his unfulfilled 
Springboks dream.

“There’s plenty to focus on before the Wallabies even get back together,” 
said Pocock. “To captain your country is obviously a huge honour but there’s 
a lot of responsibility … It’s not something I think about too much, to be 


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