By Alan Dymock
UNRULY KIDS rarely expect to get their comeuppance, but for the wayward son of Australian rugby James O’Connor, he has finally got the clip round his ear he will have been dreading.
Stood down after being removed from Perth airport for being drunk and disruptive following the Wallabies win over Argentina in the Rugby Championship, O’Connor was left with the rugby equivalent of gardening leave. Then, as of today, he was relieved of his central contract, meaning that he would not be signed up to the ARU until at least 2015, were they to want him back.
This has set tongues wagging.
O’Connor had been released from the Melbourne Rebels before this whole sorry affair, being jettisoned from the lowly franchise alongside his long-time partner in grime Kurtley Beale after a season of lowlights and Lions-time misadventures. Yet, while O’Conner was adrift in a sea of his own shame while Beale was offered a lifeline with the Waratahs.
European super-powers may be weighing up a move for the rebellious flyer, with some trying to convince themselves that he is too talented and too intelligent to continue along such a destructive path. He is quick, can step, kick, pass and has a sublime head of hair when it isn’t bundled into braids or bleached to protein-melting proportions.
However, the buzz down under is that O’Connor will slink back to the Western Force.
Perhaps it is that they know how to handle him or that he needs to be the big fish in order to force himself to conform or at least stop visiting kebab vendors at the wee small hours of the morning.
In the end it could be a case of finding the best places to hide and get on with it, though, and while he could slope off to France and endure the demands of the Top 14’s task masters he may as well stay under the watchful gaze of the ARU and get back to basics at home, away from enormous pay packets and alien temptations.
After all, there is a carrot of the 2015 Rugby World Cup in front of him and if he remains under the ARU’s nose and sorts himself out he has the ability to be in contention by the time the Union are able to sign him up again.