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”Is this the end for Pocock?”
The news headline indicated my ACT Brumbies teammate David Pocock had joined a long list of athletes prematurely written off following serious injury.
I wouldn’t bet against Dave.
Poey has every right to feel devastated.
After working incredibly hard to rebound from last year’s knee surgery, he has suffered the same season-ending injury just two weeks into our season.
But I know Poey’s character.
Hours before his surgery, he sent me a good-luck message for a theatre production my comedian brother recently roped me into.
It was at a time he could be forgiven for thinking of himself, but Dave retained the selfless consideration of others that sets him apart.
It’s this perspective that will serve him well during his rehabilitation.
In time, he may even come to view these past few years, plagued by injury, as invaluable teachers.
When British mountain climber George Leigh Mallory was asked why he wanted to reach the summit of Mount Everest, he replied: ”Because it’s there.”
The quote offers an insight into the uniquely human compulsion to explore ourselves by conquering our fears.
It’s often the challenges we don’t choose that are our greatest trials.
Though we cannot know or control what complications lie in wait for us, we can influence our way of thinking about life’s obstacles.
I was 18 the first time it was suggested to me that I consider career options outside of rugby.
I’d broken my leg in the same place twice inside four months.
Two years earlier, the same had happened to my arm.
The doctor held up my X-rays and made a grim face as he told me the repeated failure of my bones to knit indicated I was a slow healer, that maybe I wasn’t suited to an impact sport such as rugby.
Given the number of injuries I’ve suffered over my career, the good doctor may not have been quite as stupid as I assured him he was.
Dealing with a serious knee injury in the World Cup year of 2007 was also difficult.
As the year progressed it became clear that my desperate efforts to rehabilitate my knee had failed.
It’s fair to say I absorbed this failure in a deeply personal way. I felt defeated.
In hindsight I’ve come to view setbacks as vital curves in the course of life.
Struggle shapes the lens through which we see the world by throwing us out of our comfort zones and forcing us to grow.
I’ve seen many inspirational comebacks from serious injury in rugby, none more so than Pat McCabe’s return from two broken necks to be playing Super Rugby this season.
Poey now stands at the foot of a long and arduous journey back to full fitness, too.
While I believe he will get there, I don’t share the seemingly unanimous faith that his recovery is a foregone conclusion.
If a steely resolve was enough to guard against injury, Poey would never get hurt.
To look sporting mortality in the eye, to acknowledge that defeat and failure is possible, that’s what will make Dave’s challenge so much more worthy.