O'Connor rewarded after delving deep into motivation
Buzz … James O'Connor. Photo: Getty Images
JAMES O'CONNOR had plenty of what he calls ''reflection time" last year. The talented 22-year-old sat out much of the year because of a lacerated liver that ruined his Super Rugby season with the Melbourne Rebels and then a hamstring injury that kept him from the Wallabies.
O'Connor said it was during that time that he took stock on what he wanted from his career. One of the most talented players in Australia, O'Connor's off-field image has not always lived up to on-field accomplishments, shown by his one-game Wallabies suspension for failing to attend the official World Cup squad announcement and team photograph in 2011.
But O'Connor said he was confident he was now ready for the leadership role he has been given against the Waratahs tomorrow night. O'Connor was named as Rebels captain for the round-three clash, replacing leader Gareth Delve, who has been rested because of a shoulder injury.
''I definitely think it goes back to having pretty much a year off. I have matured as a player but as a person as well,'' O'Connor said.
''I really had to take a step back and really think about what I wanted out of my rugby and how I thought I could [help] myself and my team into a better position and into the finals. I've had a lot of reflection time and one of the things I did pick up from that injury is that I want to be playing rugby.
''It's not as if I've done anything bad, or illegal or anything, it's just little errors that I have made. I'm pretty balanced person and I guess some of the way I've been reflected, I don't think is a true [reflection] of my personality … I've grown as a person, I've matured a lot. To be honest, I've just put my rugby first.
''I might just be the captain for one week but in saying that I'm loving the opportunity. It's such an honour to be given this. I have really striven for this. I pulled out of that Spring Tour specifically for the reason of getting my body right and build those relationships with my Rebels teammates and put my best foot forward in this Super Rugby competition.''
O'Connor, who is off contract this season, has made no secret of his desire to have a greater leadership role within the team.
''I like big game moments, the more pressure on me … the more that I make myself perform,'' he said.
Rebels coach Damien Hill did not name a vice-captain at the start of this season, and Delve on Wednesday said the Waratahs game would be O'Connor's chance to show that he was suitable for the role this year or possibly a higher leadership role.
''He's tactically very good, he's played the game for a long time despite his young years and he's played at the highest level so we believe he's got the composure and the ability to read the game well and make good decisions for this weekend,'' Delve said.
''He's got the respect of the lads through his achievements. It is a big chance for him, an opportunity for him to step up and show that leadership capability.''