VIDEO: O'Connor reincarnation the stuff of legends
Wallaby star Will Genia has praised the “complete transformation” of James O’Connor, saying he’s thrilled to see his former teammate thriving.
O’Connor’s career was at the crossroads in 2017 when he was arrested in Paris for possessing cocaine.
That incident came after he had fallen out of favour at the Wallabies – following a string of off-field incidents.
O’Connor had lost his passion for the game at the time, and had become a shell of his former self as he battled with drugs, alcohol, and depression.
But the 30-year-old has transformed his life, winning back his Wallabies spot and even being named stand-in skipper at the Queensland Reds earlier this year.
Genia, who is now with Japanese club Kintetsu Liners, has watched on with pride as his good friend came out the other side of his struggles.
“Just as a mate, it’s been great to see his transformation,” Genia said.
“You think about where he’s come from, with the cocaine issues, the prescription drug issues and just losing the enjoyment and passion for playing football.
“Obviously he had to deal with his issues personally around how he was as a person and how he carried himself.
“I’m just so happy to see – it’s like a complete transformation. He’s now the captain of the Queensland Reds.
“That’s a reflection of how he’s changed the way he is as a person, how much he’s grown, how much he’s matured.
“More than the rugby, I’m just so happy to see he’s come through the other side and come through as such a better person now. That genuinely makes me happy.”
The Reds sit on top of the Super Rugby AU standings with a perfect seven wins from seven matches – having sealed home ground advantage in the Final, after beating the Brumbies 24-22 in Brisbane at the weekend.
The Brumbies were tactically astute and excellent on defence in the opening half, but some James O’Connor magic helped the Reds mount a comeback to steal the game at the death.
The Reds, roared on by a 20,000 home crowd, remained unbeaten this season and the victory pushed them seven points clear of the Brumbies – each with one game to play.
“We could feel that support and it drove us home. We wanted a home final and I’m just stoked by our performance,” O’Connor said in his post-match reaction.
“We couldn’t be happier, so proud of our performance.”