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West Harbour offer James O'Connor a shot at World Cup redemption

THE BREAKDOWN

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Could James O'Connor go from being a Pirate or a Ram to a World Cup Wallaby next year? 

Apparently, yes. As Super Rugby offers for the exiled former Wallaby appear to be drying up, Shute Shield club West Harbour could be O'Connor's last chance to crack Australia's World Cup squad next year. 

Australian Rugby Union chief executive Bill Pulver backed Ewen McKenzie's stance that he would not lobby any Super Rugby clubs to sign the 44-Test outside back.

Exile: James O'Connor lines up a kick for London Irish.

Exile: James O'Connor lines up a kick for London Irish. Photo: Getty Images

But he also confirmed that O'Connor needed only to be playing rugby "domestically" to be eligible for a Test call-up. 

"He doesn't actually need to find a home in Super Rugby; he could come back and play grade rugby," Pulver said. 

"He could come back and play for [West Harbour] so it becomes a question of how badly does he want it?"

O'Connor signed a three-year sponsorship agreement with West Harbour last June, before the Rebels pulled out of re-signing their playmaker and O'Connor decided to move offshore. 

West Harbour president Tony Horrocks said the two parties had put their deal on hold while O'Connor played in Europe but had remained on good terms. 

Horrocks said the Pirates would welcome O'Connor with open arms, but that the 25-year-old would also be a star signing for new National Rugby Championship franchise the Greater Sydney Rams. 

"The club would be more than willing to bring him back into the country and obviously into the national competition if he wants to be a part of it," Horrocks said. 

"He would be excellent in a Rams uniform for sure. From a club's perspective he always fits in really well and you don't walk away from that sort of talent."

There is the small matter of remuneration, of course. As one of the highest paid Australian players at the time of his departure, it is difficult to imagine O'Connor coming home for a few free chicken dinners at Club Burwood each week. 

To which the big man, Bill, said: "I think at the time it was the right thing to release him from his contract, but I have no doubt that he can get himself to a point where he can be a constructive and very successful member of the Australian rugby community. We would welcome him with open arms but the ball is in his court."

Where's the transparency?

Michael Cheika's self-imposed media ban continued this week, even after the resolution of his SANZAR misconduct case. 

The Waratahs coach was handed a suspended six-month ban with a warning to toe the line until the end of August next year lest the suspension be activated. 

There was also a $6000 costs bill and a demand for a written apology. But the threat of a ban is the big one, regardless of whether it takes effect now or not at all.

The message it sends is that Cheika is on his very last warning with SANZAR. No wonder his reluctance to say anything to the media. 

But should it be this way? It is difficult to run a critical eye over the governing body's judicial process when SANZAR will not release the transcript of the hearings. 

Its media release this week was extraordinarily detailed but also selective. It appeared to take into account not only a written warning issued to Cheika last season but also his previous misdemeanours in Europe. 

Hold on, what? In what way are the charges from another so-called jurisdiction at all relevant to whether he is guilty of abusing a television cameraman? 

There is no doubt Cheika has been his own worst enemy at times and should have learned by now where the line is in Super Rugby and how to walk it. 

But the allegations SANZAR made in its media release this week made it sound – again, there is nothing on the public record we can reference to test this – suspiciously like the governing body wanted to punish Cheika and was prepared to dredge up all manner of incidents to make that happen. 

In the meantime, a coach almost universally respected in his home market – ironically for his plain-speaking, often fiery commentary – is now denying Waratahs' fans his voice.

Nice work if you can get it

Fascinating news from The Breakdown's colleague Brad Walter that the ARU is poaching league players for their women's sevens squad

Walter reports in Friday's Sydney Morning Herald that the ARU was offering league players $700 a week and $5000 per World Series tournament to come across to rugby. 

It is by no means a motza but apparently better than nothing, which is what league is offering its female players in the Women's All Stars and Indigenous All Stars. 

League Test fullback Sam Hammond, who will play in the curtain-raiser for Friday's Test match between the Kangaroos and Kiwis, has been asked to make the switch. 

If she takes up the ARU's offer, Hammond would join former Jillaroos teammate Emma Tonegato in the sevens side, which is one ambitious tournament win away from becoming Australia's first World Series winners. 

14 comments so far

  • There is no wonder Australian Rugby is finding it difficult to get traction in the sporting stakes of the nation. That the management of Rugby is even speaking O'Connor's name in the same breath as the Rugby World Cup shows that they don't care about the face of the game. O'Connor is a blot on the game, he is about himself and damn the rest. Any club even considering having him on their books is threatening its own viability. Rugby should close the book on this bad egg and move forward.

    Commenter
    RTP
    Location
    Sawtell
    Date and time
    May 02, 2014, 8:31AM
    • Well said. A wasted talent who worries more of how his hair would look during and after the game.

      Commenter
      PHI
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      May 02, 2014, 10:50AM
    • So RTP, O'Connor, a young man who has admittedly made some errors, can never redeem himself in your eyes? When he does so - and he will, as most young men given the opportunity do - I hope you are willing to admit on this site that your sentencing of him to the scrapheap was wrong. I predict you won't though.

      Commenter
      PJ man
      Location
      NSW
      Date and time
      May 02, 2014, 2:22PM
  • GR.... well done on your succinct verbal summary on Rugby HQ last night with regards to Cheika's recent 'trucking' incident in SA. Nicely put and firmly said.... and you're quite correct in your assertion of what (?) supposed transparency and jurisdiction. The whole incident smacks of personal vendatta/s from those in the big comfy chairs.... our so-called Rugby rulers.
    Further, is it really true that Cheika must make written apology to the aggrieved ? If so... this is really not 'trucking' on ??

    Commenter
    Machooka
    Location
    inner west sydney
    Date and time
    May 02, 2014, 11:01AM
    • I find it astounding that anyone can defend Cheika's actions? When has it become ok to verbally blast someone, using the language that he used, and for GR et al to write this off as ok "because of his passion for the game/his team etc......" or that this is simply his nature and that he won't change the way it is. Isn't that the problem?

      Surely the cameraman was just doing his job? Why do we condone the abuse that he received from this grub?

      Well done SANZAR, the only problem is that the punishment was not enough. Sporting organisations globally could take a leaf out of the NBA's (granted the Cheika incident was not a racial issue) handling of officials acting out of line. If only the AFL had the balls to have dealt with Eddie MacGuire more appropriately in relation to his comments on Adam Goodes...........

      Commenter
      Redneck Wonderland
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      May 02, 2014, 1:25PM
    • @ Redneck Wonderland

      Hey.... with a name like that I'm amazed that you can't descriptor the difference between so-called abuse and simply giving direction in the current language. And I'm sure that when your trailor park goes off that this sort of language is very much at the fore....mmmmm ?

      And further... don't go qouting from the NBA and the stirling efforts made by the new Commissioner Adam Silver to arrest and deal with the obvious racist remarks by the Clippers' owner. By your own comment you say it's not a racial issue.... so why mention it muppet ?

      Commenter
      Machooka
      Location
      inner west sydney
      Date and time
      May 04, 2014, 4:15PM
  • @RTP - so you never made a mistake? Awfully judgmental comments in regards to O'Connor.

    Commenter
    Chris
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    May 02, 2014, 12:26PM
    • Chris- the thing is that O'Connor has made mistake after mistake. He is a recidivist offender when it comes to doing dumb things under the influence.

      Commenter
      Black
      Date and time
      May 02, 2014, 4:10PM
    • Agree - JOC must be given the chance to redeem himself - how else than to start low and work his way back...

      RTP - if we took such a hard stance with people and especially young folk then we consign them and ourselves and community to a pretty miserable existence. Like a lot of young people he has made some mistakes, but he has mostly hurt himself...like Beale and Cooper, he deserves his chance to make right.

      Commenter
      Simon
      Location
      Curl Curl
      Date and time
      May 04, 2014, 12:05PM
  • Well written Georgina, & in reality why should not James get another chance? Did not the other two "amigo's", get another "throw of the towel", after doing somethings that were far worse than James? Give the bloke a go. He is a terrific talent,& a waste not to even look at. For Pulver & McKenzie to not help out, just goes to show how weak minded they both are, & their creditability has one wondering.
    In regards to the women's seven's Georgina, do you think that the Australian women's, side will beat the current world champions side in the race for the IRB world series title? There's not much in it, at the moment, so lets say, may the best team win. Cheers.
    Also congrats, for putting that "Ninny", on the right track, on last night Rugby HQ. Well done.

    Commenter
    Muzzo
    Location
    Orange
    Date and time
    May 02, 2014, 4:36PM

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