Around the Fringes: Chris Alcock

Photo: SPA Images

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Most professional sportsmen and women will have dreamed of making the big time at some stage in their youth, planned their future glories and envisaged themselves reaching the peak of their sport. Few however, would still have tangible proof of such fantasies.

Waratah flanker Chris Alcock was no different but his dreams are in print and remain proudly held to this day by his biggest fan. My Mum’s got a school book from around Year 6 when they ask ‘What do you want to do when you’re older?’ and mine said ‘I want to play for the Waratahs’. She likes to bring it out every now and then to embarrass me!”

Despite those childhood ambitions, the 23-year-old never really took himself seriously as a potential rugby player until relatively recently. Born in Durban, South Africa, he had grown up with a rugby playing father and frequent visits to King’s Park Stadium to watch the Natal Sharks helped to fuel a love for the sport that continued after the family (he has an older brother) relocated to Australia 12 years ago.

A product of Barker College, Alcock’s realisation that he may actually have the talent to live the dream came when he was fast-tracked from Gordon’s colts into the 1st Grade side in 2009 and attracted the attentions of Waratah assistant coach Scott Bowen. However, the jump didn’t come without a painful dose of reality. Going to grade, where everyone’s suddenly twice the size and twice as fit, it was very different. I came off the field feeling sore and I had never known that before.”

However, his Shute Shield experience was merely a stage rehearsal for his next leap forward – to Super Rugby at the SFS. Making his debut for the Waratahs in last year’s clash against the Cheetahs, his former countrymen made sure he wouldn’t forget it in a hurry. “I think it was about one minute and thirty seconds into the game that I got welcomed by their hooker Adriaan Strauss, who kindly ran over me! It was an amazing night but it goes so quickly that you only really get to take it all in after the game. The crowd and the atmosphere keep you going but you can’t really stop and admire it while you’re playing.”

Known for his aggressive defence, speed at the breakdown and fearlessness in contact, Alcock – who moved from Chatswood Oval to Eastwood in the off-season – has proven to be a valuable addition to the New South Wales ranks and is unfortunate to find himself vying for a starting openside spot with captain and Tahs legend Phil Waugh and Wallaby tourist Pat McCutcheon.

He readily acknowledges the quality of the pair and uses the desire to usurp them in the pecking order as his motivation. It’s something that has served him well in the past. “If you tell me I can’t do something, then I will work twice as hard at it to make sure I can do it just to prove you wrong. It’s always my goal to strive for more game time but at the same time, we’ve got two top players that I’m competing with and between the two of them, I am learning a lot. I just want to make sure that I’m competing for that spot at every opportunity, whether that’s playing for Eastwood, being on the bench or at training. I am going to give it 110%.”

Mindful of the relatively short professional career enjoyed in the sport, he is currently studying at APM College in North Sydney, where he is undertaking a Batchelor in Business and majoring in Marketing. But whatever the future may bring, the fact that he is living the dream he had as an 11yr old and pulling on the famous Cambridge Blue jersey is reward enough – at least for now. “I always had a dream of becoming a rugby player but there’s a dream and then there’s actually applying yourself to it. I’m very happy, looking back 2 years ago, if somebody had said to me I was going to play for the Waratahs, I would have laughed at them!”

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Waratahs v Rebels Match Program_2011_Chris Alcock

Original version published in the NSW Waratahs v Melbourne Rebels match program on April 30th, 2011

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