True Grit Doc of the Week

True Grit

One of the best openside flankers in the world, David Pocock’s stand-out performances for Australia in the test series against Ireland earlier this summer will live long in the memory. Shown over successive nights, this fascinating documentary reveals another side to the man as it follows him on his return to his homeland in Zimbabwe, the country he was forced to leave as a teenager. BT Sport 1, Sat, July 21st 20.30

Part of the Australian Story series, True Grit offers a unique insight into one of the biggest stars in world rugby. After making his debut for the national side at the age of 20, Pocock burst onto the world stage with his gutsy performances at the 2015 World Cup where, after knocking out hosts England, Australia eventually succumbed to old rivals New Zealand in the final after a titanic struggle. He scored a try in that game, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the All Blacks from becoming the first side to retain the Webb Ellis Trophy.

Pocock is no ordinary sportsman, however, as this documentary reveals. He has strong beliefs on issues such as social justice and the environment and is not afraid to back them up with action where necessary. He is a man who is heavily influenced by his background – after an idyllic childhood on the family farm in Zimbabwe, his family were forced to flee after being driven off their holding by President Robert Mugabe’s land requisition law which saw white farmers dispossessed in favour of black Zimbabweans.

Leaving with little more than the clothes on their backs, the family moved to Brisbane in 2002 to start a new life when Pocock was just 14. But he has never forgotten his roots and took the opportunity to travel back to the country of his birth with partner Emma Palandri for this documentary.

Return to Africa

Using old home movie footage coupled with a plentiful helping of family anecdotes, we learn that Pocock, one of three brothers, was obsessed with rugby from an early age. He talked of becoming a Springbok, but it was not to be - little did he know then that fate would intervene and that his legend would be made in another jersey in another part of the world.

Pocock reminisces openly about the mostly happy days he spent in Zimbabwe, but there is no doubt that the trauma of their uprooting and emigration has had an effect on all of the family, not just him. He remembers his first day at school in Australia. “As a 14-year old rocking up with a different accent, and a different background, you didn’t really fit in,” he says. But it just made him more committed. He worked even harder and threw himself into rugby - it was his way of dealing with the past.

Making a difference

He quickly made his mark and was selected for the Australian schoolboy side in 2005, before making his full debut for the senior side just three years later. Pocock has now played for the Wallabies 68 times and is already firmly established as one of the greatest players ever to pull on the famous green and yellow jersey. But it is for his activism that he will probably be best remembered as he continues to use his celebrity status to effect change and highlight issues he is passionate about.

He founded EighteenTwenty Vision with friend Luke O’Keefe, a charity to help the people of Nyaki in Zimbabwe which had been racked with AIDS and HIV. It is testament to his commitment to the country of his birth, despite the significant scars he still bears from the end of his time there. His personal ethos is built around ‘ubuntu’, a philosophy that focuses on the effect that an individual has on the people around them. Only in helping others, he believes, can you be truly human.

Pocock is also committed to fostering change in his adopted country. He and partner Emma, who accompanies him for much of his return to Zimbabwe, hosted a civil union ceremony for family and friends in 2010, but are refusing to sign any documents until same-sex marriage becomes law. He is also outspoken on environmental issues and was even imprisoned overnight in 2014 for his part in a protest against the effects of mining on the forests of New South Wales.

Despite a night in the cells, he turned up the next day ready to train at 7am, Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham recalls. “He rolled out onto the field and trained better than anyone else.”

***The concluding part of this documentary is on BT Sport 1 on Sunday, July 21st at 21.15.

Images: Getty

There are plenty of great documentaries to watch out for on the eir sport pack every week. From football to golf, GAA, rugby, athletics and beyond, we’ve got something for everyone. Watch out next week for another fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse into the sporting world or go to for more sports news and stories or to find out more about how we're setting sport free.

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