The Emirates Western Force have withdrawn from talks with James O’Connor’s management after further intensive negotiations failed to find common ground on contract length and remuneration. RugbyWA was advised by O’Connor’s management last week that the utility player had chosen in principle to remain with the Emirates Western Force on the basis of the club agreeing to a new set of contract terms and conditions. These conditions, relating specifically to contract length and remuneration, were considered by RugbyWA before a final counter offer was made to O’Connor. After 4∏ months of negotiations without resolution a deadline was set for 9.00am today which passed without a response from O’Connor’s representatives. RugbyWA Chief Executive Officer Vern Reid has therefore withdrawn the offer. “We presented James with extremely generous terms which reflected his talent and standing at the Emirates Western Force,” Mr Reid said. “We were fully committed to giving James every opportunity to continue his development through the rugby programme in Western Australia however it is clear his final decision has been based on other factors. “We’re still a young club and it is fundamental in our development that everyone is committed to building a cohesive culture that defines a ‘team’ ethos. The terms being imposed by James’ management did not correlate with that objective. “It is with a great deal of regret that we will farewell James, however we can be certain that we did everything we could to retain his services and that our offer was fair and reasonable and in the best interests of the Emirates Western Force and rugby in WA,” said Mr Reid. O’Connor was recruited from Nudgee College in Queensland ahead of the 2008 season and made his first appearance later that year. He became the youngest player to debut in Super Rugby history, at 17 years of age, and has gone on to collect 38 caps for the Emirates Western Force. Head Coach Richard Graham said while he was disappointed that O’Connor would not be part of the organisation going forward the decision not to compromise contractual standards for a short term benefit was universally supported across the club. “We all know that James is a wonderfully talented player however the terms that were being asked of us by his management were, in our view, unacceptable irrespective of the player in question,” Graham said. “We have a strong belief in our rugby programme and that is evidenced by the number of international capped players being produced out of WA. James has been one of the beneficiaries of that programme and we were certain he could continue to grow within the environment we’ve created here. “There will be plenty of conjecture about what James’ departure means in terms of our future on the field and I can reassure our members and supporters that our goals do not change. “We will continue to recruit exciting new players while our retention has already seen a high calibre of personnel remain committed to rugby in WA. “We wish James the best in his future however our concern from now going forward is planning and preparing without him. “We are confident we have a robust squad that will display the character to grow and find success in seasons ahead.”Like Rugby World? Subscribe to the magazine for the latest comprehensive content.
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