James O'Connor may turn to rugby league
October 21, 2013
Wayward Wallabies back James O'Connor may be drawn over to NRL with several clubs reportedly seeking him out © Getty Images
James O'Connor's dramatic fall from grace has unexpectedly opened the door for a possible switch to rugby league.
O'Connor is struggling to find any team to play for next season after a string of disciplinary problems led to him being cast out by Australia and facing a substantial pay-cut even if he can find a club that wants him.
O'Connor's asking price was around $A700,000 a season, but savvy National Rugby League (NRL) clubs could pounce knowing they may be able to lure him away for around half that price.
He has stated he intends to stay in rugby and fight his way back to the top, probably via Super Rugby outfit Western Force. But with pre-season training already underway, Force have still not tabled an offer to O'Connor.
His options are limited and league may prove a convenient stopover, although the West Australian franchise are expected to come through with a deal.
"At the sort of money he was after [$A700,000-plus], no club would have touched him because it was too much of a risk," an unnamed NRL chief executive was quoted as saying. "But if you could get him at around a third of that price then you'd take a look. That's assuming he wants to give league a crack. He's got the ability but he's got to get his head right."
NSW Origin coach Laurie Daley told Sportal that O'Connor possessed the skill set to make it in the NRL should he decide to move.
"Izzy Folau is obviously the standout player when you're talking rugby players you'd like to see in league but O'Connor is in that next group with the likes of [Quade] Cooper and [Kurtley] Beale," Daley said. "All of those players would be worthy of playing our great game. There's always room for rugby players to come across. I'm not sure where everything stands with O'Connor at the moment but it wouldn't surprise me if NRL clubs took a look at him."
Former league star turned rugby coach Phil Blake worked with O'Connor at the Force and the Wallabies. "He has got some obvious talent that would suit rugby league," Blake said. "But he would have to work hard in a number of areas to get up to speed with the NRL. And he would no doubt have to work hard defensively."