Not for the first time, James O’Connor has landed himself in hot water and placed serious doubts over his rugby career after coming to a mutual agreement to terminate his Australian Rugby Union contract three months early.
That’s according to the ARU’s official website, which adds that O’Connor will not receive a national contract for 2014.
Rugby World confirmed the news over Twitter:
James O'Connor has been released from the last three months of his ARU contract and and admits he's 'stuffed up' . Where next? #rugby— Rugby World (@Rugbyworldmag) October 3, 2013
The 23-year-old was recently in the spotlight of an alleged investigation concerning an incident at Perth Airport, per ABC, on Sunday, September 15.
Speaking on the matter via the ARU website, chief executive officer Bill Pulver stated:
If James chooses to stay in Australia and play Super Rugby, he would be eligible to play for the Wallabies in 2014, as long as his behaviour was consistent with our expectations and if his form warranted selection.
This has been a difficult decision for all parties. James is a player with huge potential and someone who has the capacity to make a significant long-term contribution to our game – but after assessing the evidence of numerous incidents, we have an obligation to uphold the values of our game and James understands that.
Following his release from the Melbourne Rebels, O’Connor is still without a Super Rugby side for the coming season, and a proposed return to his former side Western Force could be in danger after recent revelations.
O’Connor himself has spoken on the matter, apologising for his actions, per Sky Sports:
I want to apologise for any issues that I have caused and I want express my respect for my team-mates, the Wallabies and the jumper. There is nothing more important and rewarding to me than representing my country.
I want to say again that I do appreciate the impact that some of my actions have had on my team and the sport in general. I remain focused on earning my place back with the Wallabies and will be looking for the right opportunity to do this.
Among the most versatile backs to have played in the Wallabies’ back line in recent years, discipline has always been one of the weaker aspects of O’Connor’s game. The youngster clearly has potential but perhaps hasn’t dealt as well with the early fame and fortune as some would have hoped.
What lies ahead for O’Connor now is up for debate. The Australian is in a state of limbo and, if he does indeed have the intent of working his way back into Ewen McKenzie’s side, would presumably need to fight for his place in a Super Rugby franchise.
Otherwise, there may be room for a potential move to Europe, although that would be an extreme rarity for a Southern Hemisphere player so young.
Earlier this year, O’Connor was photographed in a fast food restaurant in the early hours of the morning with then international teammate Kurtley Beale just days before their Test match against the British and Irish Lions, per the Daily Mail’s Chris Foy.
It’s instances such as these that have paved the path to what could become one of the biggest prospective international careers that goes unfulfilled.
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