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Greg Growden
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After more than 30 years with The Sydney Morning Herald and Fairfax Media in Australia, Greg Growden now writes exclusively online for ESPNscrum. Never afraid to step on toes, you can expect plenty of compelling insight from one of Australia's most renowned rugby writers.
Super Rugby comment
Pocock mastering referee manipulation
Greg Growden
February 17, 2013
Brumbies overpower disjointed Reds in Canberra
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Related Links
Players/Officials: David Pocock
Tournaments/Tours: Super Rugby
Teams: Australia

Usually when a player continues to babble away at a referee, his coach grabs him by the ear, shoves him into a padded room and goes ballistic.

Not so at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night. Instead Brumbies coach Jake White, and his Wallabies counterpart Robbie Deans would on the quiet have been relieved at how David Pocock kept up the banter whenever he was in the vicinity of the inexperienced referee Andrew Lees during the match against the Reds.

It bodes well for this long season, especially when in a few months Pocock will have to stand his ground when up against the master manipulator of referees, Richie McCaw, and also during the British and Irish Lions series where the tourists are bound to try to intimidate the whistleblowers. For a long time, the Wallabies have been after a captain who does exactly that. Stand tall and refuse to be overwhelmed by anyone. Pocock is that man.

Even though there are several candidates for the Wallabies captaincy, including James Horwill, Pocock is more than likely to get Robbie Deans' approval, especially after displaying such a high level of composure, leadership and maturity when he took over the position last year, before being sidelined by injury.

And while Pocock is not Brumbies captain, with White understandably sticking with the working man's hero Ben Mowen, it won't take long to discover during the Super Rugby season who exactly is running the show on the field in Canberra.

Pocock's presence was everywhere in the opening fixture. He dominated the breakdown, especially in the second half, when like a rabid dog burrowing for a juicy bone he firmly anchored himself to hover over his opponent at the tackle, then through sheer force was able to wrestle the ball out of their grasp. It was often a no-contest.

Sometimes referee Lees seemed amazed at how Pocock had so successfully snaffled the ball off the Reds that he must have thought something dodgy had gone on, prompting penalties to go the visitor's way. One time, Pocock appeared staggered that the Reds were given a leg-up. In disbelief, Pocock showed off the ball he had just legally gathered from the tackle as if to say: "Did a goose lay this golden egg?"

Eventually in the 68th minute, Lees had had enough. Pocock jogged towards him obviously to give the referee some homespun advice, and Lees snapped back: "Yelling at me ... is not going to get you anywhere. If you've got a problem talk to your captain."

Was there a glimmer of a smirk on Pocock's face as he headed back towards his teammates? Probably. Mission Accomplished.

Twelve minutes on, the Brumbies were enjoying an important victory against a major foe, and one that justifies pundits describing them as the favourites for the Australian conference - especially with Pocock now settled in the city of roundabouts. He will make an enormous difference at the Brumbies, delighting in the fact that unlike at the Force he doesn't have to do everything and that the workload can actually be shared.

Another valuable Brumbies asset will be scrum-half Nic White. White is everything you want from a No.9. He is abrasive, emotional, a complete pain in the neck, but most importantly he has a great pass. White gives his teammates every chance by offering the ball with pin-point accuracy just in front of them. No Harbour Bridge passes - as the late, great Wallabies coach Dave Brockhoff who often wanted 'to drown halfbacks at birth' used to call them - in White's repertoire.

You can already put White down to be Will Genia's backup during the Tests this season, and due to the Pocock factor mark down the Brumbies as the Australian team to beat.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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