Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: O'Connor needs to be reined in for his own good

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James O'Connor has denied being drunk. Photo / Getty Images
James O'Connor has denied being drunk. Photo / Getty Images

James O'Connor. Two words to terrorise the ARU far more than the All Blacks.

The young man with playing and blood connections to Australia and New Zealand is a precocious talent, someone who may have more natural talent than Ben Smith or Charles Piutau but can't get his mind to work in unison.

Not that he's short of a few cells. In any official dealings with O'Connor he seems to be on the money as far as his work and concentration goes.

As soon as he gets a leave pass or sees the chance for some downtime, his other brain takes over. Common and sense do not appear together in his social vocabulary.

On a week's leave after playing the Pumas, O'Connor argued about boarding a flight to Bali early the next morning and police escorted him and his girlfriend out of the airport.

Many sports teams cart around players who have had one over the eight and behave themselves for the flight home. Most of the Wallabies flew home but O'Connor decided his best preparation for the last leg of the Rugby Championship was to head for the party land in Bali where he would get into a zen like mood to get ready to play the Boks.

Smart move from a man almost reaching Ma'a Nonu's pariah stage in Australian rugby circles at just 23, someone who has yet to sign a Super 15 deal for next year and is already in the amber warning section of his ARU contract.

Since his 2009 test debut, O'Connor went awol on the day of the last World Cup announcement, was involved in a scuffle in Paris, snapped at 4am at a fast food outlet before the second test with the Lions in Melbourne and was disciplined for missing Wallaby meetings.

After his Rebels side lost to the Reds this year he appeared in a social media photo in a rooftop spa on a night when one of the group was later charged with assault.

The finger was thrust towards O'Connor for leading his mate Kurtley Beale astray in South Africa. O'Connor's supporters point out he has never been charged while his detractors say he usually creates the trouble then scarpers.

When Ewen McKenzie took over he told the players history meant nothing to him but they were all warned about the future and the consequences of misbehaviour.

So will the ARU fine O'Connor and censure him about his repeated misdemeanours or will they give him a better lifeline by doing the above and adding a third penalty.

He should be stood down from the tour to South Africa and Argentina and ordered to play some club rugby, if there is any left in the Sunburnt Country, as part of a good behaviour bond if he wants to go on the end of year tour.

- NZ Herald

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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