‘Whatever was best for the team’: The accidental Wallabies captain who gave RA ‘everything’ for post-RWC review


Fresh from inking a new two-year deal to stay at the Waratahs, incumbent Wallabies captain Dave Porecki says he was “open and honest” to Rugby Australia during their review and has welcomed the news of Joe Schmidt’s appointment as national coach.

Few would have predicted Porecki would have led the Wallabies the most in 2023, but such was the extraordinary year that it will likely be a trivia question in the years to come.

Indeed, it looked like Eddie Jones had seen a ghost when he sat on the outskirts of Saint Etienne last September alongside Porecki and attempted to fool the world that everything was OK and Will Skelton would be fit and firing for their Group C blockbuster against Fiji.

He wasn’t and the Wallabies slumped to consecutive defeats to see their World Cup hopes blow up in smoke, as Skelton and fellow big-bopper Taniela Tupou were forced to watch the slow-motion car crash from the sidelines after training injuries.

David Porecki’s time in the sun as Wallabies captain was kept in secrecy following Will Skelton’s injury ahead of their crunch Pool C fixture against Fiji in Saint-Etienne, France. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

All the while Porecki, the hard-working, no-frills hooker was unable to enjoy his time in the sun as he toed the party line that Skelton would be OK, so much so that team officials were still insisting the lock was a chance to play at the Wallabies’ captain’s run.

It didn’t bother Porecki, who doesn’t have an ounce of ego and only wants to do what’s best for the team, but the leadership revolving door, which saw him become the sixth skipper of the year, was just another example of the bizarre year that Jones oversaw.

“I still enjoyed that week,” Porecki told reporters on Tuesday.

“We had a fair bit going on that week behind the scenes, obviously with a couple of key injuries.

“I wouldn’t anyway, I’m not sort of person that would have sort of sat in my room and gone, ‘how good’s this.’  I just sort of focused on the game.

“What I wanted was a result from the game [against Fiji] and the best thing to do right there was to have that leadership group drive us through that game and, obviously, we couldn’t get the result in those games.

“I don’t have any hard feelings about the week or anything like that, it was just whatever was best for the team and, at that point in time, that was what was best for the team.”

Nonetheless, Porecki is the Wallabies’ incumbent captain and with Skelton unlikely to return for the July Tests against Wales, and more than likely a lone Test against Georgia, the hooker is a safe pair of hands if Schmidt wants another front-row warrior in the vein of Rory Best to kick-start his revolution.

Once again though, Porecki isn’t one to crave the extra responsibilities and only wants to right the wrongs of the past year and play his part in restoring Australian rugby’s reputation as a formidable rugby power.

“That’s not necessarily a goal of mine,” he said.

“A goal of mine is to contribute as a senior member of the team, so whatever that entails.

“A captaincy thing isn’t something that I strive to have, it’s just more I want the respect, and I earned the respect from my playing group and my coaching staff and whatever comes from that comes from that.”

David Porecki is the incumbent Wallabies captain. (Photo by Adam Pretty – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Porecki was one of several Wallabies asked to participate in Rugby Australia’s review into their 2023 disaster, which was recently presented to the board.

The review was led by a three-member panel, including former internationals Andrew Slack and Justin Harrison, as well as industry expert Darlene Harrison.

Just whether the findings of the review are publicised remains to be seen, but the seasoned pro said he gave RA “everything” but didn’t want to expand on that.

“Oh, I would probably say that’s more within the players, not so much the media,” Porecki said.

But he did add that he was excited by Schmidt’s appointment last week.

“There’s definitely a level of optimism,” the 19-Test hooker said.

“It’s positive for the game, positive for Australian rugby. I think it’s a great appointment and I think the playing group is definitely looking forward to it.”

David Porecki and Eddie Jones speak following the Wallabies’ final World Cup fixture against Portugal at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on October 01, 2023 in Saint-Etienne. (Photo by Julian Finney – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

At 31, Porecki should be entering the prime of his career.

A hard-working hooker, who does his core roles well, Porecki had to wait until his late 20s to just get a look-in for the Wallabies, but Super Rugby too.

It’s why the Manly Marlins rake didn’t hesitate in re-signing with the Waratahs.

“It was easy for me,” he said. “I love the Waratahs, love everything this club’s about and just an easy decision for me to extend my stay.

“Ever since I knew I wanted to be a professional rugby player, I wanted to be a Waratah, so I’m glad to be able to fulfill that and continue on it.

“I’ve always had an internal drive and I knew what I could contribute to Australian rugby.

“I won’t lie, there’s still a lot of personal things that I want to achieve in this sport.

“First and foremost, with what’s happened, it’s sort of what’s ahead for me and I look forward to this year with the Waratahs and what we can potentially achieve as a group.”

For now, attention turns to the Super Rugby season, which gets underway on February 23 with the Waratahs travelling up north to take on the Reds in Brisbane.

Porecki said the fact it was the Waratahs’ 150th year meant 2024 was “massive” for the franchise.

“We’ve been together long enough now that we expect results from each other and with that comes standards,” he said.

“So far our training standard’s been really high, the intensity has been really high, but I think we’ve been humbled a little bit from last year in that we almost put a target on our own back. This year, we’re quietly going about our business.”

After a rushed start to his 2023 campaign because of a couple of concussions, Porecki said he, as well as the rest of the Waratahs squad, were feeling better prepared after returning to Super Rugby training before the Christmas break because of the early World Cup exit.

“Last year, because I was coming off the back of concussion as well, you almost use the first quarter of the season to get your legs under you, whereas here you’ve got a base and a foundation from training to then lead in and hit the ground running,” Porecki said.

“Before I made the Wallabies, I’d always had really long preseasons, especially over in the UK, so you hit the ground running when you’re in a season. But you don’t actually realise that one of the components of playing international rugby is yes, you get rest after, but you’ve got to come in and pretty much be 24/7 throughout your break.

“We had our eight weeks to really refresh and then also get a decent block in the pre-season to really physically and mentally get up to speed, and then on top of that you got trial games, so there’s no excuse for us to not physically be ready.”

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