Wallabies offer 'help' to O'Connor
Mon, 14 Oct 2013 08:30
We've had some contact
The Wallabies said they will not be abandoning fallen star James O'Connor as he battles to rehabilitate his stalled career.
Coach Ewen McKenzie said he was keen to play a role in helping O'Connor, who had his contract torn up by the Australian Rugby Union this month for repeated discipline breaches.
The 23-year-old back was dumped from the national team in September after he was prevented from taking a flight because he was drunk, hours after Australia beat Argentina in a Rugby Championship match in Perth.
It was the last straw for the ARU, who announced "an early release from his national contract for 2013 and [we] will not offer him a national contract for 2014".
O'Connor was also released by his Super Rugby franchise Melbourne Rebels and only his former team, the Perth-based Western Force, are talking to him about playing next year.
McKenzie said he was interested in helping O'Connor and urged the wayward Test star to stay in touch.
"We've had some contact. He's obviously working on his end of things," McKenzie told reporters ahead of the Wallabies' Test against the All Blacks in Dunedin this weekend.
"I'll continue to have contact but contact's a two-way thing.
"We've been concentrating on playing footy but I spoke to him from Argentina [where the Wallabies beat the Pumas a week ago].
"I'm interested in improving him as a person so I'm happy to help in that process."
Captain James Horwill said the Wallabies' had adopted a team-first mentality over O'Connor's situation as it could not afford to be distracted by off-field issues.
Horwill said O'Connor needed to sort things out for himself, but also made it clear the Wallabies would not be abandoning him.
"I think the guys have always been available for James if he needs it," Horwill said.
"He's a guy who needs to make the decisions for himself and not concern himself with other guys. No one can make the decision for him.
"He needs to find out what's important to him and work from there. He needs to work out what he wants on and off the field and the guys are always here if he wants to talk."
Western Force coach Michael Foley said the franchise was still considering handing O'Connor a lifeline.
"Obviously there was an incident here at Perth Airport which tended to send things south a little bit," Foley said Monday. "But we've continued to talk to James and we're definitely open-minded there."
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