SYDNEY (Reuters) – Former rugby international David Pocock has traded the ruck for the Australian senate after winning a seat in the upper house of parliament representing the territory surrounding the capital Canberra.
One of a string of independent candidates who successfully challenged the major parties in last month’s federal election, Pocock unseated former minister Zed Seselja from one of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT)’s two senate slots.
Pocock’s election as the ACT’s first independent senator was confirmed by the Electoral Commission on Tuesday, more than three weeks after Australians cast their votes.
“Our campaign aimed to make politics about people,” the 34-year-old, who has a long history of environmental activism, said in a statement.
“We built a policy platform off the back of thousands of conversations about things that matter. We kept it positive. We talked about the issues and ideas for the future and it clearly resonated.”
Pocock, who moved to Australia as a teenager and played 78 tests for the country between 2008 and 2019, signalled his move into politics by taking a public stand on issues important to him in the latter years of his playing career.
In 2014 while playing for the ACT Brumbies, he reported New South Wales Waratahs forward Jacques Potgeiter to the referee after the South African used a homophobic slur.
Direct action over the destruction of a national forest for a coal mine led to his arrest the following year when he chained himself to a digger.
Pocock also runs a charitable foundation that works on supporting self-sufficiency in poverty stricken areas of Zimbabwe, where he was raised.
Famous during his playing days for his ability to poach the ball in the dark and often violent world of the rugby ruck, Pocock said politics had also proved bruising.
“On the rugby field at least there’s a referee,” he told ABC TV last month.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Peter Rutherford)