O’Connor’s incredible admission: ‘I was a broken man’

James O'Connor can now admit he ran away from the Queensland Reds in 2015 because the pressure was suffocating and he fell so far short of his own expectations.

Fans are celebrating his five-star form from last Saturday night because of the wise direction and passing skill that ignited the 10-try rout of Japan's Sunwolves.

The "win" that O'Connor feels is far more personal because finding peace and purpose is feeding a new maturity with the right balance of healthy life and rugby.

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No one could miss the smile on his face after his own strong running game (eight dashes for 97m) because a fit body is co-operating.

His try at Suncorp Stadium was his first in a Reds jersey because his hit-and-run 2015 season fizzled out as a tryless, 12-game campaign.

He finished more of an outsider for 2015 World Cup selection than when he started that season.

It hurt deeply because his renowned acceleration was gone and he couldn't produce his best because of a hidden knee ligament tear.

"I escaped. I felt pressure from everywhere and couldn't handle it here (in 2015) so I left and went back to France," O'Connor said.

"I was a broken man and not performing at the level I knew I could was just one thing.

"(Then-chief executive) Jim Carmichael told me one day he had 40 emails from people who had seen me out and about in Brisbane."

O’Connor ahs looked a different player the second time around with the Reds.
O’Connor ahs looked a different player the second time around with the Reds.

O'Connor was living in the James Street wine bar precinct in New Farm and felt unfairly characterised.

"At that stage I wasn't even partying and was wondering 'why are people after me?'," O'Connor said.

"I've a new awareness now, don't care about that stuff and don't need to hide anything."

More powerful redemption lies ahead.

Playing the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night will be a chance to remedy the lowest point of 2015.

It was against the Durban-based side that his clearing kick howler travelled just 10m into the hands of an injured Shark who literally limped three strides to score the game-clinching try.

Australian rugby does itself no favours by always rushing to grab at the new fix.

 

2015 was a tough time for O’Connor.
2015 was a tough time for O’Connor.

O'Connor's two most recent displays at flyhalf for the Reds have sent debate into overdrive that he is the ideal figure of experience and panache to solve the Wallabies' riddle at No.10.

The new O'Connor isn't getting carried away after surprisingly finding himself at No.10 when Reds coach Brad Thorn wanted an experienced head there.

"Me being at No.10 has just unfolded that way," O'Connor said.

"I'm not going to lie, I'm enjoying it but I'm still learning a lot so go easy on me.

"I'm getting there and putting my hand up there for that spot."

Best of all, there's a team-first accent to his play that is making youngsters Tate McDermott, Hamish Stewart and Hunter Paisami better around him.


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