Experienced Wallaby utility back James O’Connor has tied down his future at the Queensland Reds for 2024 and beyond after signing a new contract with the Brisbane-based outfit.
The 33-year-old, who has played in more than 100 Super Rugby games after a previous stint with the Reds and spells with the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels, penned a one-year extension with the Reds on Wednesday.
Chance to mentor Queensland’s young playmakers
O’Connor’s new contract includes a coaching clause in which he will have an opportunity to mentor the next generation of Queensland playmakers – like Tom Lynagh, Lawson Creighton and Harry McLaughlin-Phillips – as he prepares for his future after professional rugby.
“I feel very privileged to be staying in Queensland,” O’Connor told the Reds’ official website. “This is my home, my team and an opportunity to continue playing with a group of men I have a lot of love and respect for.
“Since returning home in 2019, there’s been many highs with the club and also a lot of learnings.
“I feel there is so much this group can achieve and I believe with our new world class facility and under a coaching staff headed by Les (Kiss), we can really find our next gear.
“This contract also allows me to deliver on one of the main reasons I came back to Australia – to help develop the next generation of Rugby talent here at the Reds and also through coaching the junior pathways, which has been a passion of mine for some time.”
New Reds head coach Les Kiss is delighted that O’Connor, who can play at fly-half, centre, wing and full-back, is staying on with the franchise.
“It’s been great to watch James’ return to the Reds from afar over the last few years,” he said.
“His leadership and experience are obviously an important aspect of the current squad, and the lessons he can pass on to our up-and-coming playmakers will be pivotal in the coming years.
“We’d also like to acknowledge Rugby Australia for their support of this unique contract arrangement which will allow James to develop himself as a coach within our elite pathways.
“I’m looking forward to working with him.”
No clarity on Junior Wallabies coaching job
There were reports which suggested O’Connor would link up in a coaching capacity with the Junior Wallabies, although Rugby Australia officials have confirmed nothing formal is in place as of yet.
O’Connor is the first major re-signing under Kiss, keeping vital experience in Queensland as the new head coach builds his squad for the future.