James O’Connor has been released from his contract with the Australian Rugby Union and will not be selected for the remaining six games of the Test season. Additionally, the ARU has confirmed that he will not be offered a salary top-up next year which could cost him somewhere in the vicinity of $300,000 next year if someone deigns to contract him to ply in Super Rugby in 2014.
I salute the ARU for taking this step. The continuing breaches of team rules and the contractual arrangements by which O’Connor was employed by the ARU simply could not be let stand and anyone who suggests to the contrary is just flat out wrong.
I am heartened by the statement released by O’Connor in the aftermath of this decision in which he is quoted as saying:
"I recognise that given my actions and the circumstances it is best for the team and myself to go in different directions in the short term. I remain focused on earning my place back with the Wallabies and will be looking for the right opportunity to do this.”
I hope he can come back from this because his, largely unfulfilled, talent is prodigious to say the least.
More to the point though I hope that the ARU and the Wallabies selectors remain firm on this new position they are taking when it comes to player behaviour. It is heartening to see that, despite the rebuilding phase we are going through presently, behaviour such as that of O’Connor’s will no longer be countenanced and, indeed, rewarded as it was during the “Deans era”.