Wallabies winger James O'Connor's contract with the Australian Rugby Union has been terminated with immediate effect after a series of off-field incidents, capping a dramatic fall from grace for one of Australia's top rugby talents.
The 23-year-old was dumped from the Australian team last month after he was prevented from taking a flight because he was allegedly drunk, hours after Australia beat Argentina in a Rugby Championship match in Perth.
It was the last straw for the Australian Rugby Union, which announced 'an early release from his national contract for 2013 and (we) will not offer him a national contract for 2014'.
'We appreciate James's contribution to Australian rugby and his unique skill and flair when playing, but have come to this decision after looking into a number of incidents in recent years that are inconsistent with the values of our game,' ARU chief executive Bill Pulver said.
'We pride ourselves on living the values of rugby -- passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork. James has accepted these values need to be consistently upheld on and off the field at all times.'
The Perth airport flare-up came barely a month after O'Connor vowed to change his ways in a bid to keep his Wallabies jersey after a series of disciplinary issues.
They included being spotted at a burger bar with fellow wayward teammate Kurtley Beale at 4:00 am three days before the must-win second Test against the British and Irish Lions in June. He also missed the team bus for the third Test.
In 2011 he was suspended after sleeping through the World Cup team announcement following a night out, with former great Nathan Sharpe last month making clear players had been disappointed with his behaviour for 'a long time'.
O'Connor, who has played 44 Tests, admitted Thursday he 'needs to earn back a lot of respect'.
'As a professional, I am focused on developing as a person and as an athlete and intend to do everything possible to put myself in the best environment to do that,' he told the Sydney Daily Telegraph.
'I want to apologise for any issues that I have caused and I want express my respect for my teammates, the Wallabies, and the jumper. There is nothing more important and rewarding to me than representing my country.'
O'Connor said he recognised that it was best for both the Wallabies and himself to go 'in different directions' in the short term.
'I realise I need to earn back a lot of respect, and that is exactly what I plan to do both on and off the field. I remain focused on earning my place back with the Wallabies and will be looking for the right opportunity to do this.'
The loss of his ARU contract will reportedly cost O'Connor Aus$500,000 (US$470,000) a year.
'We would consider reviewing our position regarding a national contract for 2015 and beyond if we believe James' behaviour is consistent with the values associated with being a Wallaby,' said Pulver.
His future is unclear after he was offloaded by Super 15 club Melbourne Rebels this season with only Western Force showing any interest in him although they have since released a statement saying that they remain open to the possibility of O’Connor’s return to the club provided he understands and observes the club’s non-negotiable standards and values.
Instead of offering O'Connor a contract the Force have encouraged him to take time away from rugby to consider his playing future.
"Our conversations with James and his management regarding a possible return to the Force have been ongoing," RugbyWA CEO Mark Sinderberry said
"These conversations have been thorough and honest, and have included Michael Foley, Matt Hodgson and players. These discussions have been about both on- and off-field matters that we believe can assist James to become the player he aspires to be and to develop himself as a person.
"Since the ARU's decision, we've reiterated our position to James, including the non-negotiable standards and values - particularly around earning respect - that must be upheld by everyone in the team and at this club.
"However, at this point we believe it's in James' best interests to take time and reflect on what's important to him and what he really wants. "