Reformed Wallabies bad boy to lead Reds
NEWS: Reformed Wallabies bad boy James O’Connor admits he experienced “quite an emotional moment” when coach Brad Thorn told him he will captain the Queensland Reds.
In another sign of the former teen star’s progress since his dark days of rugby exile, Thorn has appointed 30-year-old playmaker O’Connor as interim captain while regular skipper Liam Wright misses the bulk of the Super Rugby season due to injury.
The decision was greeted with raucous round of applause from teammates when announced internally after training on Friday.
“When Brad told me the other day I had quite an emotional moment where I just reflected on my whole journey,” said O’Connor on Sunday.
“Being in Australia, going away, coming back, just everything that’s been a part of it.
“It’s truly humbling.”
A great reward for James O’Connor being named captain of the Queensland Reds while Liam Wright is out for 10 weeks. A strong leader who will continue to enhance the Reds culture. @Reds_Rugby @StanSportAU
— Tim Horan (@TimHoran12) February 14, 2021
O’Connor will first lead his team out in the season-opener against the Waratahs at home on Friday.
It maintains a dramatic rise from rugby oblivion for O’Connor, who debuted for the Wallabies as an 18-year-old but twice left Super Rugby for Europe amid off-field issues.
Two nights in a Paris jail cell in 2017 proved the line in the sand for the Gold Coast product, who sought a return to Australia and has since re-established himself with the Wallabies and proved his leadership credentials under disciplinarian Thorn.
A previous brief stint with the Reds – his third Australian Super Rugby franchise – in 2015 ended in acrimony.
Six years on, O’Connor will captain a talented young side boasting a smattering of emerging Wallabies which is expected to push for a title.
He believed a hard-learned lesson to always put his team paved the way for his latest honour.
“Since I’ve come [back to the Reds] I’ve really wanted to be involved and give my all, and that’s possibly why I’ve got the call up,” he said.
Former Queensland Reds and Wallabies centre Tim Horan – who days ago told AAP that 21-year-old flank Fraser McReight would be a good choice to deputise for the injured Wright as captain – also backed the selection of O’Connor.
“A great reward for James O’Connor being named captain of the Queensland Reds while Liam Wright is out for 10 weeks. A strong leader who will continue to enhance the Reds culture,” Horan tweeted.