Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn hopes flyhalf James O’Connor will be remembered as a great Wallaby by the time his playing career comes to an end.
O’Connor produced a standout display in the Reds’ 57-5 bonus-point victory over the Western Force on Friday night, having a hand in the first three tries and also scoring one himself.
He also became the first player in Super Rugby history to score more than 100 points for three different franchises.
The eight-tries-to-one romp lifted Queensland to top spot on the Super Rugby AU table, with O’Connor’s hot form turning the Reds into a genuine title threat.
O’Connor was in the Wallabies wilderness for almost six years due to a series of off-field incidents before making a successful return last year.
On his current form, O’Connor is a strong chance to be handed the ten jersey when the Wallabies are back in action later this year.
Thorn has been thrilled with the way O’Connor has bonded with the Reds team and he hopes there are many more fruitful years ahead for the 30-year-old at both domestic and international level.
“I played him when he was a 17-year-old over in Christchurch. I was impressed with him that day,” Thorn said.
“(He was) a highly talented guy with the world at his feet, but you saw the challenges he had around choices he was making.
“To get that opportunity back here, he’s made every post a winner.
“Just that narrative for me, in five years time or something, I’d like to think those earlier days aren’t talked about as much.
“Hopefully he’s talked about as a very good Wallaby or a great Wallaby and a great servant for Queensland rugby. I’m pleased how he’s going along.”
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Reds scrumhalf Tate McDermott announced himself as a potential Wallabies bolter with a scintillating display against the Force.
McDermott scored two tries, with the second being a mesmerising 40-metre dash for the line while weaving in between Force defenders.
The Reds have a bye next week before taking on the Brumbies in a final-round clash that could decide top spot.
The Force’s sixth defeat on the trot left them stranded on the bottom of the table ahead of next week’s match against the Brumbies.
“I think being away from home for so long is starting to take its toll,” Force coach Tim Sampson said.
“We’re not in our home nest at home. We don’t get to play at home, we don’t train at our facility, we’re not around our loved ones.
“That’s not using it as an excuse for tonight’s performance, but I think it’s human.”