Australian rugby icon David Pocock opens up on racism and homophobia.
BY DELME PARFITT – Wales Online
In a candid interview, Pocock, who has been Wales' nemesis in recent years, talks about the social issues he cares passionately about.
Australian back row icon David Pocock, so often the scourge of Wales, has spoken of his commitment to helping tackle issues surrounding racism and homophobia.
In a candid interview with the Sydney Morning Herald , Pocock, who will be the key dangerman in the Wallaby pack when Warren Gatland’s Wales face them in World Cup Pool A on October 10 at Twickenham, compared his experience of moving to Australia from Zimbabwe as a 12-year-old with that of an old school friend who was black.
Pocock’s family fled the southern African nation because of state-sponsored violence before he became a teenager.
The issue of racism has been a topic of debate in Australian sport in recent weeks with Aussie Rules player Adam Goodes of the Sydney Swans having been abused by crowds.
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“My experience of sport was that it was somewhere where nothing else mattered,” Pocock told the Herald.
“Moving to Australia, as a kid with white skin but a different accent, I didn’t really fit in to start, but sport provided me with that in. Once I got on the rugby field, I could hold my own. I could have a good time.
“I compare that to a black Zimbabwean friend in Canberra. His experience was so different just because of his skin colour.
“He said to me, growing up in Zimbabwe that race was never really an issue at school. He was never racially called anything.
“His experience playing school rugby in Canberra, every game he’d be called something. Even his mates at school, the casual racism ... They’d say, ‘C’mon mate, just joking’.”
“It is important that people are getting those conversations, just around the language that we use.
“Some people say it’s petty and childish, and to get over it, I really think that language is important.
“The thing with the race stuff is that so many white people have opinions about whether Australians are or aren’t racist. To me, ask people who aren’t white. They’re the ones who know.”
Pocock is well known for being outspoken about social issues in Australia.
In November last year he was one of seven campaigners who chained themselves to machinery for more than 10 hours in protest at the construction a coal mine in a rural part of New South Wales.
And earlier this year Pocock took a public stand against homophobia when he objected to the use of the word ‘faggot’ by New South Wales Waratahs flanker Jacques Potgieter during a clash with the Brumbies.
It led to Potgieter admitting the slur, and visiting Australia’s first gay rugby club, the Sydney Convicts, to apologise.
“I’ll be honest, I was down after the whole Waratahs thing,” said Pocock.
“I really had decided that I wanted to focus on rugby, after all the Maules Creeks stuff, and then appearing in court.
David Pocock lines up another tackleDavid Pocock lines up another tackle
“The way [the Potgieter incident] blew up ... People were accusing me of driving an agenda.
“If your agenda is to make sport more inclusive, then sure. It’s not a bad agenda to have. At the time, I’m not thinking, ‘How will this play out in the next few weeks?’ We have to allow athletes to be people, and have different views outside of rugby or whatever sport they play.”
Same-sex marriage has yet to be legalised in Australia, and Pocock says he and his partner Emma will not wed until it is.
He added: “You see the debate, the marriage equality debate, and it’s like we’re talking about trading cars or selling cattle.
“These are real people. Chatting to friends in Perth at the time, marriage equality to many in the LGBTI community wasn’t the biggest issue for them.
“There were some other serious issues. But to people who want to celebrate their commitment in that way, I can’t see how you would deny your brothers and sisters or friends that opportunity.
“It’s not infringing on your marriage. Are we really that insecure? I kind of feel the tide has turned at a societal level.
“Whether the people we elected will follow through is another thing.”
Pocock said his interest in issues outside of the rugby spectrum helps keep him motivated to play.
“If anything, being involved in that sort of thing gives you perspective, and when you do come to training, you’re mentally fresh and ready to get into it, instead of living in a footy world,” he said.
Source: Wales Online