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O'Connor getting desperate for a 'job'

Fri, 12 Jul 2013 12:47
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Those things wouldn't be acceptable here
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Enigmatic Wallaby back James O'Connor is getting desperate to find employment in Australia, after it has emerged that the Western Force are also reluctant to sign him.

Force coach Michael Foley said it is important for O'Connor to admit to his shortfalls if the star playmaker wants to realise his potential both on and off the field.

O'Connor is on the lookout for a new team after being axed by the Melbourne Rebels earlier this week.

With the Brumbies, Waratahs and Reds not interested in O'Connor's services, the 23-year-old needs to secure a deal with the Force if he is to continue his career in Australia.

The Force management will talk to O'Connor, but the franchise's players have indicated they will not accept anything but the highest standards of behaviour from the gifted back.

Before O'Connor left the Force two years ago, several senior players were unhappy at times with his attitude.

The franchise then lost patience with him after four months of contract talks when he made claims that they were not prepared to meet.

Force representatives talked to O'Connor when he was in Perth with the Rebels in April and recently spoke briefly to his management team. They will talk O'Connor in coming weeks, but any deal would be strictly on their terms.

Since O'Connor left there have been huge changes to the coaching staff, senior management and playing squad, but players have made it clear what they would expect from the young backline player.

Respected flank Ben McCalman, who came off the Wallabies reserves bench in the last Test against the British and Irish Lions, said they would not compromise standards set under coach Michael Foley and captain Matt Hodgson.

"He [O'Connor] was very successful when he was here. He's a great player to have on the field, very skilful, a lot of natural talent," McCalman said.

"In saying that, we've worked very hard in the last year to set values and standards through Matty Hodgson and down through the senior players.

"We'd love to have him here but not at the cost of compromising what we've already set.

"He has a few things that he can sort out and we'll see how things turn out.

"There's a lot of hard work been put in place the last year especially through the captain leading down to the players.

"There's obviously a few things that he [O'Connor] would need to work on to be here but hopefully he sorts those things out, and if he ends up here that would be great.

"He's certainly a player that brings a lot of value to the team when he's playing well and when his off-field situations are going well.

"I'm not sure where the [franchise] focus is at the moment regarding him but hopefully he comes into the mix at some stage. He's certainly a player that brings a lot of value to a team."

Rebels flank Scott Higginbotham, who McCalman replaced in the Wallabies squad after he dislocated a shoulder, endorsed O'Connor's sacking, saying it had to happen.

Higginbotham said not offering O'Connor a Super Rugby contract for 2014 had nothing to do with his playing ability but was the right decision for the franchise.

"He has been an outstanding player for the franchise and he is a Wallaby. No one questions his playing ability," Higginbotham said.

"It was more a selection issue and how the franchise felt he fitted into the team dynamic. With a lot of young guys coming through and new guys shining, it was a time start fresh.

"It was a good opportunity and I think it's just what had to happen."

Higginbotham said it would be better for O'Connor to develop his skills and personality at a different franchise.

Counting against O'Connor is his chequered history, which includes late-night outings with troubled friend Kurtley Beale, missing team engagements while on Wallabies duties and a bitter departure from the Force two years ago.

Foley is keen to give O'Connor a chance to present his case and will meet the 40-Test speedster face to face at some point over the next week.

O'Connor remains one of Australia's most-talented players and the Force would love someone of his calibre to spark their backline.

But Foley is adamant the Force will only consider signing O'Connor if he agrees to abide by their strong team values and standards.

"Any sort of education process becomes a lot easier when the person being educated actually accepts that there's a requirement to do so," Foley said.

"That's the biggest challenge.

"We do know that a couple of the Wallaby boys were out at 04.00 in the morning at a burger joint.

"We do know a couple of Wallabies missed the team bus for training.

"And we do know a couple of Wallabies missed the team meeting on the Sunday after the [Lions] Test match.

"All of those things are very simple things that, in my opinion, wouldn't be acceptable here.

"But again, that's not imposing something on somebody. It's getting them to recognise why those things are important to the team.

"We can't be negotiable on those things.

"It's not a matter of hitting someone over the head with a stick. It's a matter of saying, 'this is where we're headed. How does it suit you?'."

Sources: The West Australian & NZ Newswire

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