David Pocock packs binoculars instead of rugby boots when he leaves the house these days.
Bird watching, after all, is a lot safer than sticking your head at the bottom of a ruck and having opponents twist and pull every part of your body to try to move you.
There are still nerves, though. Because when Pocock walked out of his Canberra home on Friday morning, it signalled the first steps into the unknown.
The former Wallaby and ACT Brumby, regarded by many as one of the greatest players in world rugby when fit, retired from all forms of rugby this week after declining an option to play in Japan in 2020-21.
Life after rugby should be a breeze for a man who has never been defined by the sport he played. Pocock has filled his life with passions off the field to balance his sublime skill on it. But even he is wary of the challenges of retirement.
"It was a tough decision to make. I was incredibly well looked after by [the Panasonic Wild Knights] in Japan ... but it just feels right afterwards. It's a relief," Pocock said.
"It won't be smooth sailing transitioning out of something that has been my life for the past 15 years.
"It's going to be its own challenge, but I've got to get stuck into it and see how it goes. There are definitely a lot of unknowns.
"The reality is that when you are in that world, it is what you're doing. Rugby has been a huge part of my life and to finish something like that, you're kidding yourself if you don't think there will be some serious adjustments.
"Even doing less training ... you become dependent on that hit of adrenaline. There will be some things that will be great and feel freeing, but there will be challenges. I'll catch up with some guys who have been through it to get some tips."
CALLING TIME ON RUGBY
Pocock's full-time retirement announcement was hardly a surprise. Injury forced an early end to his Brumbies career last year and he finished his Wallabies duties at the World Cup in Japan.
The 32-year-old moved to Japan to link with the Wild Knights and had an opportunity to play again in the coming season if he wanted to.
Pocock took time to reflect when he returned to Canberra in April and ultimately decided his rugby career was finished at all levels.
"I've been thinking about it for a while now. It really feels like the right time," Pocock said.
"There's an American author, Rob Bell, who I really enjoy. I remember hearing him once say you can leave when it's a graduation, or you can hang in there and leave when it feels like a divorce.
"I'm incredibly grateful for all of the opportunities I've had. It's been a childhood dream to play rugby and represent Australia, but it feels like the right time for me to move on to some other stuff.
"As an athlete you know at some point it's going to come to an end. We put that off ... but this really does feel like a good time to call it a day."
REFLECTING ON 15 YEARS
The Western Force signed a teenage Pocock in 2005, plucking him straight out of school to give him a rugby opportunity.
He made his Super Rugby debut in 2006 and won his first Wallabies cap in 2008, quickly becoming one of the most influential players in the world.
The Brumbies lured him to Canberra in 2013, but his time in the capital was dogged by injuries. He had knee reconstructions in 2013 and 2014 and a calf problem ruined his farewell campaign in 2019.
Over the past week Pocock has taken to social media to look back at his rugby journey.
"I'm not usually one for dwelling on the past," Pocock said. "But it's been a great opportunity to look back through some old photos to see great people I've met, teammates I've had and support I've been given.
"As an immigrant arriving in Australia with a dream of playing for the Wallabies ... to have been able to do that, it's cool to look back."
Pocock played 112 Super Rugby games and 83 Tests for Australia, finishing his Australian career after World Cup heartbreak almost exactly 12 months ago
"Playing in a World Cup was always such an incredible thing to do. To have three very different experiences ... that all ended in some serious disappointment, looking back it was still amazing," he said.
A career in politics will have to wait, for now. Pocock is working on a Rangelands Restoration project in Zimbabwe, which is ready to be launched to restore ecosystems.
"It's basically regenerative agriculture practices and trying to find ways to regenerate degraded land and improve people's lives, while also creating habitats for wildlife," Pocock said.
"My interests have really been around how we need to start taking more serious action on climate and the other big one is the biodiversity crisis that is here. Working on something like this really excites me."
In his first few days of retirement, Pocock has taken part in a nationwide citizen science project. With binoculars in hand, Pocock has spent his mornings bird-watching as an ambassador for the national bird count.
"As a kid I dreamed of one day being a game ranger and working in a national park so this seemed like a good little way to be part of something like that," he said.
"I think one of the things about COVID-19 is that it's really made us appreciate the places around us. We're all travelling a lot less. I've certainly been appreciating how incredible Canberra is and the places around Canberra."
Gang-Gangs and Reed-Warblers have been his most common find so far.
"I'm not twitcher level but do really enjoy learning and trying to be able to identify the birds around Canberra, but there's a still heap I've got to pull out the bird book or the app for," he said.
"It's a great way for people to connect to the places we live and all the amazing birds around but it also provides incredibly valuable and useful information to Bird Life Australia to look at trends over time, what species are being seen where."