Australian Rugby
Western Force reconsidering O'Connor options
September 19, 2013

The Ups and Downs of James O'Connor

  • April 2008: Becomes youngest Super Rugby debutant at 17 when he played off the bench for Western Force against Queensland Reds
  • November 2008: Becomes second youngest Wallabies player when, aged 18, he debuts off the bench against Italy in Padua
  • June 2009: Scores three tries in his Wallabies starting debut against Italy in Canberra
  • April 2011: Confirms deal with Melbourne Rebels from 2012
  • August 2011: Suspended for one match and given a suspended fine after missing the Wallabies' official Rugby World Cup 2011 announcement
  • June 2013: Photographed at a Melbourne fast-food outlet at 4am in the week of the Wallabies' second Test against the British & Irish Lions
  • July 2013: Fails to attend Wallabies team meeting after a loss to the Lions at ANZ Stadium
  • July 2013: Released by Super Rugby side Melbourne despite being a Wallabies regular. The Rebels state the franchise is "entering the next phase of development"
  • September 2013: Removed by Australian Federal Police from Perth Airport after the Wallabies' win against Argentina. AFP reports he was intoxicated.

James O'Connor faces a nervous wait on two fronts as he attempts to relax in Bali after he was barred from taking an international flight out of Perth because airport and airline staff said he was drunk.

O'Connor risks being suspended from the Wallabies' two-Test tour to South Africa and Argentina, which departs on Monday, while Western Force are believed to be reconsidering whether they want to sign him for Super Rugby 2014.

The Force are the only Australian Super Rugby franchise interested in signing O'Connor for next season, after Melbourne Rebels declined to offer him a new contract in July, and he had hoped to confirm a deal as early as this week. But the Force now will wait until the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) completes its investigation in the incident at Perth Airport before deciding whether to continue negotiations with O'Connor, club officials reluctant to compromise the strong player culture they've established under coach Michael Foley.

O'Connor is under investigation after he was removed from Perth Airport by Australian Federal Police officers. The AFP released a statement saying that officers "spoke to a 23-year-old man at Perth International Airport in the early hours of the 15th of September [Sunday] … it is alleged the man was intoxicated", but O'Connor is reported to have told ARU officials that he was not drunk and that he had been involved only in a heated dispute over seating arrangements that led to him and his girlfriend being taken back through customs to re-book seats on a later flight. ARU integrity officer Phil Thomson is investigating the claims, and the union is expected to make a decision before the Wallabies fly to Cape Town on Monday morning.

O'Connor, 23, may seek to continue his rugby career in Europe if he is unable to secure a deal with the Force, or he may look to play in the National Rugby League (NRL). Both options, however, will see him ineligible to play for the Wallabies.

O'Connor spoke only last week of his passion for the Wallabies, and his hunger to play a key role in helping them reach their potential under new coach Ewen McKenzie. "I'm very happy in rugby at the moment, very much enjoying my time here," O'Connor said before the 14-13 win over Argentina in Perth. "I've got a lot I want to achieve in this game with this group. I don't think we've reached anywhere near our peak."

© AAP

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