James O’Connor to Leave Western Force
Australian rugby young gun James O’Connor will not be at the Western Force next Super Rugby season, after the club announced it had withdrawn its offer for the star playmaker.
All five Australian Super Rugby clubs are believed to be chasing O’Connor, who just last week expressed his desire to stay in Perth.
However O’Connor has failed to reach a signing deadline (Today 9:00am), leading the Force to pull their offer for the dynamic 20 year old.
Western Force CEO Vern Reid confirmed that the franchise were no longer in the running for one of Australian rugby’s most prized signatures.
“We presented James with extremely generous terms which reflected his talent and standing at the Western Force,” Reid said.
“We were fully committed to giving James the 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.”
Reid also said that while he was sad to see O’Connor leave the franchise, he believed that the Force had done everything within their power to keep O’Conner in the west.
Force Coach Richard Graham also towed the party line, saying that while O’Connor was a big loss, he believed his management was chasing too big a deal.
“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,” said Graham
“We have a strong belief in our rugby programme and that is evidenced by the number of international capped players being produced in 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.”
O’Connor played 38 matches for the Force after making his debut as a 17 year old in 2008, and while his absence will leave a big hole in the Force’s squad, Graham remains confident that the Force will cope just fine without him.
“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,” said Graham.
“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 are confident we have a robust squad that will display the character to grow and find success in seasons ahead.”
The Western Force play their final match of the season this weekend against the Melbourne Rebels. Ironically O’Connor will not be able to play against the side with which he has been so heavily linked because of a one week suspension he obtained in last week’s match against the Reds.