Force sign O’Connor for two years


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The Emirates Western Force has secured one of the game’s hottest young prospects, James O’Connor, on a new two year deal.

The deal, which consists of a one year contract with an option for 2010, was confirmed today after O’Connor attracted strong interest from potential suitors across both rugby codes.

The 17-year-old showed enormous promise in four appearances for the Emirates Western Force this season in just his first year out of school.

The Nudgee College product became the youngest ever Super 14 debutante, coming off the reserves bench in his home state against the Reds in Week 10, before starting the final three matches of the season at inside centre.

O’Connor, who qualifies to play for all three Tri Nations countries through his New Zealand-born parents and South African grandmother, opted to stay in Perth for the opportunity to continue his development alongside the likes of Wallabies playmaker Matt Giteau.

‘My main reason for staying with the Force was to continue to learn from players like Matt Giteau and to play under Coach John Mitchell, who has already helped me a lot with my game,’ said O’Connor.

“Matt is an awesome player, he controls the game so well and you couldn’t learn from anybody better. He opens holes and is so unpredictable — he’s also a great talker. I’m picking up a lot from him,’ he said.

The one-time Parramatta Eels rugby league junior switched to the 15-man code just three years ago and defied his 180cm; 83kg frame to leave a lasting impression on supporters of the WA side, crossing for a maiden try in the team’s final outing at Subiaco Oval.

O’Connor, who turns 18 in just over two weeks, said he had grown in confidence with his handful of Super 14 appearances.

‘I was grateful for the opportunities I received this season and I felt more confident with each game and really enjoyed the step up to Super 14 level,’ he said.

‘It was everything I expected it to be; faster, harder, with bigger players, bigger hits and fewer open spaces,’ he said.

O’Connor said he would consider his representative future at a later time.

‘Obviously I have an option for which country I represent, but that is a fair way down the track and is not my focus for now,’ said O’Connor.

‘I’ve set my goals on starting every match for the Emirates Western Force next season and developing my game at Super 14 level.’

RugbyWA General Manager Community Rugby and Junior Development, Mitch Hardy, said O’Connor is a key component in the team’s future plans.

‘James made the most of the opportunities he had this season and has unlimited potential as a rugby player,’ said Hardy.

‘We believe James is one of the most outstanding young footballers in the country and the fact that he has decided to remain with the Emirates Western Force is a huge vote of confidence in our rugby program,’ he said.

‘James has a tremendous opportunity to develop his game under the guidance of John Mitchell and his coaching staff and alongside leading playmaker in Matt Giteau, which is an opportunity he couldn’t have received in any other program.’


James O’Connor
Position: Inside Back
Physical: 1.80m, 84kg
Age: 17 (Born 5/7/1990, Gold Coast, QLD)
Super 14 Caps: 4
Super 14 Points: 5 (1t)
Super 14 Debut: 2008 v Reds, Brisbane
Representative Honours: Australian Under 16s (merit team, 2006) Australian Schoolboys (2007).

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