Queensland Reds captain James O’Connor has fond memories of his time as a teenage tearaway at the Western Force but he’ll be doing no favours for his former team in Saturday’s Super Rugby AU clash.
The Reds are chasing a club record ninth consecutive home win and head into the match at Suncorp Stadium flying high after their thrilling 40-38 win over the Brumbies in Canberra last weekend.
O’Connor made his professional rugby debut for the Force in 2008 and still looks back happily on his time in Perth.
“I was still a kid. I was 17-years-old, left school and lived in a house with my best mates,” O’Connor said.
“We all had scooters to cruise around on, it was a very pleasant time of my life and definitely enjoyed it over there.”
Since those days O’Connor has been on a rollercoaster journey but now finds himself leading the Reds, who are the only unbeaten side in Super Rugby AU after defeating the Brumbies.
The 30-year-old said erasing some of the hurt of last year’s grand final defeat and the manner of the come-from-behind victory has given the entire Reds’ squad a huge boost.
“From my point of view that’s probably the most connected we’ve been as a team,” O’Connor said.
“Individuals across the board came together and it was sort of one mind.
“From a collective point of view, the guys were just really switched on and really played in that moment.”
That teenager who started his Super Rugby career at the Force has had the captaincy role thrust upon him at the Reds, after Liam Wright’s injury, but O’Connor said the responsibility is something he is becoming accustomed to.
“I am comfortable,” he said.
“It was definitely a change for myself … it can be very easy to get clouded by getting caught up in what the team’s doing and making sure that everything’s alright in that respect.
“At the end of the day, I’m on the field to do my job and if I’m focusing on anyone else I’m not giving 110 per cent myself … so it’s about finding that balance and it’s one I’m still learning.”
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