At the beginning of June, Robbie Deans anointed James O’Connor as his Test 10 and all must have seemed right with the world for the man we call JOC. Fast forward six weeks and the garden is no longer rosy.
Many Roarers agreed JOC was not a Test standard no. 10 and that is the way it panned out. He proved unable to marshall, and then set free, the backline.
We saw late night burger runs and failure to catch a bus. We heard reports of brash and divisive behaviour off the field. The extent of those reports was not really apparent to the host of rugby supporters until the Rebels announced they would not be renewing JOC’s contract and then Scott Higginbotham spoke very frankly about him.
I wonder if other senior Wallabies truly concurred with Deans’ anointment of the wunderkind and trusted him as their Test no. 10? While other squad members knew JOC’s individual talent, they also knew he was not an experienced 10 and they knew his behavourial issues. Is it possible Deans’ decision blighted the Wallaby campaign from day one?
We have seen JOC play 10, 12, 11, 14 and 15 and, dare I say it, he has not mastered any of them as yet. Many people agree he has talent but where is it best used?
I don’t believe that JOC will play for the Wallabies again this year. Let’s face it, he is not a 10 and at the moment there are better 12s, 15s and wingers.
In Australia, in the Super Rugby, his only possible future appears to be with the Force but even their players have expressed doubts about team dynamics.
If not the Force maybe the Super Kings might look at him as a 12 or 15? Maybe France or Japan could be JOC’s future?
Hopefully the young man is looking in a mirror right now, being totally honest with himself and realising talent must be backed up by hard work and a large dose of humanity and humility.
As to his long term future I will offer a left field suggestion.
Many of us recognise that JOC has rugby talent. We know that he has speed off the mark, that he has good evasive skills, can kick and can pass. His relative lack of size is a bit of a drawback for 12, 11 or 14 in this day and age.
The Force have a long term issue at no. 9. Brett Sheehan must retire soon and Albert Matthewson has only one more year. JOC could be remodelled as a 9 and have a long term career at the Force. He is still only 23 and Sheehan could school him.
It is a thought for a young, talented player who needs a backline home and a goal to work toward.