The Emirates Western Force has a bye this week and it is expected that this week the future of star player James O’Connor will be determined. The Force desperately needs to hang onto the rising star, as he is the spark from which their future can ignite.
The signing of O’Connor was inspirational and the young talent has blossomed in the West and stepped up to play a game that belies his years. The worrying aspect is all talented professional sportsmen want to win things and this season the Force has underachieved. With his home state Reds flourishing it may be tempting to head home and play with guys he grew up with such as great mate Quade Cooper. It also would not harm their partnership at international level.
The Force has lost three games by just a point this season, against the Rebels, the Blues and the Reds in that crucial first game of the season. The promise is there, but sometimes if you fail to seize the opportunities they do not come around again and with some ageing players in the squad one wonders if the chances will be there again next season.
Encouraging is the fact that many of the players are opting to stay in Perth, Ben McCalman, Nick Cummins, Nathan Sharpe, Matt Hodgson, David Pocock, Cameron Shepherd James Stannard, Brett Sheehan, Kieran Longbottom, Pek Cowan and Sam Wykes all having re-signed for the club. However some of these players’ careers are no longer on the rise and O’Connor will be aware of that and be intrigued as to who is coming in to share the load.
One can’t help feeling that the loss to the Waratahs at the weekend was the finals nail in the Force’s coffin and the game which will tip the scales in O’Connor’s mind. It was another game that they let slip through their fingers in last ten minutes of the match, however was far closer than the earlier meeting of the two sides.
O’Connor is to be commended the way he has carried himself this season as the speculation on his future circulates, but don’t be surprised if an announcement is made before the Force’s next run out against the Brumbies, which would be his penultimate home game, should the expected happen; although many still hope he stays with the Force.