«‘Whatever you do, do the right thing’, that’s the way he operates and that’s what put him on my radar,» Paradice said.
«He’s big on the environmental side of things like I am and he’s basically into doing the right thing, which I am too. To be at the top of your game you have to be highly talented and focused but you do see that a lot of top guys go AWOL and do stupid things.
«I have a huge regard for him, which is why I support him.»
Like the Salteri family of Transfield and Tenix fame, who funded Israel Folau until mid-last year, Paradice, worth $519 million last year, is one of a number of private individuals donating to the game through the Australian Rugby Foundation.
The ARF is the game’s national fundraising body set up by Rugby Australia, with big plans to create a self-sustaining ‘future fund’ in the next couple of years.
Pocock and Folau were connected with their wealthy and hitherto anonymous backers, who made tax deductible donations to the foundation’s high performance arm. Tony and Josephine Sukkar, the founders of construction company Buildcorp, are also well-known donors to rugby through direct sponsorships, fundraising and donations to the ARF.
Paradice was flown to Padova from Argentina in November to watch the Wallabies play Italy, heading into the dressing rooms to catch up with Pocock after the match.
He told the Herald he had no method for choosing his targets but was drawn to unique characters, getting involved with Evans well before his historic Tour de France victory in 2011.
He also backed Hayne for a time, but the pair ended their relationship, reportedly by «mutual agreement», soon after Hayne returned from the US and a brief foray into the NFL.
«I supported Cadel before he won the Tour de France, one because he was a good guy, with the drive and will to succeed, and two because I thought he was a good citizen with a moral compass in the right direction,» Paradice said.
«I supported Jarryd at the time because I like people that get out on top. Everybody said ‘you’re at the top of your game (in the NRL)’ but he wanted something different. It happened to me when I started my business up a few years ago. I took a big risk and had everything to lose. So I’m sympathetic with that kind of philosophy towards life.»
The ARF declined to comment on arrangements with any of their donors.
Pocock and RA were heavily criticised for the John Eales Medalist’s current deal, which included a sabbatical year in 2017.
Now coming to the end of the agreement but with a World Cup drawing close, Pocock is yet to indicate whether he will play on beyond the end of this year as he battles ongoing neck problems.
He told the Canberra Times last weekhe had started specialist training to help his neck cope with being targeted by opposition teams.
«My focus in the break was to get my body right and work on things,» Pocock said.
«I’ve seen a few specialists about my neck and I’ve been doing a lot of work with Tom Emerson at Praksis in Phillip to strengthen it. That’s been great with some movement and flexibility stuff, as well as some other stuff in the gym.
«I’m hoping I can get it strong and healthy again. It’s feeling good [at the moment] but I haven’t done contact for a while. I’ve been pain free for a few weeks now, but we’ll see how we go when I get back into contact.»
Paradice returned home to Australia recently after some years abroad, and said he was open to making new connections.
«Everybody can relate to sport, everyone looks up to Roger Federer. There’s a lot of guys out there like that who have good hearts and if I can help them achieve their goals and if people see them as role models, follow their lead and make the community a better place, then I think that’s a good thing,» he said.
«The conservation and environmental work that David does, if he can influence a few people in the community to do the right thing, then that’s worthwhile. I’m not just going to support a really good footballer to play football. There’s got to be something else, for me anyway.»
Georgina Robinson is the chief rugby reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.