It was announced today that James O’Connor and the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) have mutually agreed to end their contract. This comes on the back of James being released from Super XV club Melbourne Rebels. He will not be contracted in 2014, and will only be paid in match payments, should he make the Wallabies squad. This results in a loss of about $400,000.
James was recently involved in an indiscretion at Perth airport, having been kicked off a flight to Bali. James understands that he now has to pull his head in and that how he performs off the field is just as important as how he performs on it. He had this to say in a recent interview:
“I realise now it’s not good enough. There’s been things every year. Most years I’ve been involved in different situations and I expect more from myself and I know rugby supporters and in particular my family expect of me as well. I’ve never hurt anyone or anything like that but the last thing I want to do is take away from the team and put extra pressure on them … every time these incidents happen rugby’s been brought into the media and talked about for the wrong reason and that’s the last thing I want. I want to be remembered for my rugby and not for what happens off the field and away from it”
So let’s breakdown the financials. As previously mentioned, James won’t be contracted with the ARU for 2014. This means he can take up a lucrative offer with an overseas club. Western Force have shown interest, and a deal would be somewhere in the region of $400,000-500,000 for the year. On the other hand, James is a household name in rugby circles around the world. He could command over $1 million plying his trade in lucrative leagues such as France or Japan. Plenty have done this in the past, including Sonny Bill Williams.
However, this move could prove risky to him being picked up for a contract in 2015. If he plays for a team outside of Australia he is ineligible for selection by the Wallabies in 2014, which may hinder his chances the following year.
So the question needs to be asked: Does James go for short term gains, or look at developing a long standing career as a Wallaby?
James O’Connor is managed by Ben Hartman at Octagon.