The Queensland Rugby Union (QRU) and Rugby Australia (RA) have secured the signature of St.George Queensland Reds flyhalf James O’Connor through 2023.
The 30-year-old has re-signed for the next two seasons that will see him remain at Ballymore and in Australian Rugby until the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
O’Connor’s growth as a leader has shone this season - captaining Queensland to a breakthrough premiership, as he scored every point in the Reds’ 19-16 victory over the Brumbies in front of a packed Suncorp Stadium to secure the 2021 Super Rugby AU title a fortnight ago.
O’Connor is also in career-best form finishing the domestic Super Rugby season as the competition’s highest points scorer with 121 points (1T, 25C, 22P) from nine games, in addition to being crowned the 2021 Super Rugby AU MVP as voted by the fans.
“Queensland is my home. I was born here. I love this State, I love pulling on the maroon jersey, and this is where I want to finish my career,” said O’Connor.
“We have a great team now and I think we are going to do some special things. I’m excited to be part of it and to help take them forward.
“I came back with the intention to play for my country again and to prove to myself that I could take what I learned from overseas off-the-field and flourish in this environment.
“I truly feel that we have the group of coaches and players to take Australian Rugby back to the top and I want to be part of that more than anything.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity I was given and like I said when I arrived back, I put my service to this country and the Wallaby jersey above all.”
Reds GM – Professional Rugby Sam Cordingley said: “We are pleased that James has committed his future to the Reds and Wallabies.
"He has demonstrated again this year that he is the best five-eight in the country. We look forward to seeing his continual support for the club through to 2023."
Rugby Australia Director of Rugby Scott Johnson said: “It’s been a pleasure to have James back in Australian Rugby. I said at the time that he had matured immensely while overseas, and I think we have all seen that over the last two years.
“James will be the first to say though that the work isn’t done. We have a number of things to achieve in Australian Rugby in the coming years, and James’ experience will be invaluable to both the Reds and the Wallabies.
“James also recognises the role he has as a mentor to our next generation too – and that may prove to be his greatest legacy,” Johnson said.
Following his time in Europe and the UK, O’Connor returned home to Queensland in 2019 and embarked on his second stint with the Reds during last year’s Super Rugby competition.
He went on to represent Australia at his first Rugby World Cup in Japan later that year, before guiding Queensland to back-to-back Super Rugby AU Grand Final appearances at flyhalf in 2020 and 2021.
Place of birth: Southport, Australia
Senior Club: Brothers
School: St Jospeh’s Nudgee College
Representative Honours: Australian Schoolboys (2007), Queensland Schoolboys (2007), Wallabies (2008-2013, 2019-), Western Force (2008-2011), Melbourne Rebels (2012-2013), Queensland Reds (2015, 2020-) London Irish (2013-2014), Toulon (2014, 2015-2017), Sale Sharks (2017-2019)
Super Rugby Debut: 2008 v Reds, Brisbane (Western Force)
Super Rugby Caps: 97* (Force 38, Reds 38*, Rebels 21)
Super Rugby Points: 781* (Reds 274*)
Test Debut: 2008 v Italy, Padova (Australia)
Test Caps: 55* (Australia)
Test Points: 231*