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By ARU Media Unit
With the much-anticipated Adelaide Sevens just days away, Rugby HQ takes a look at the forgotten man behind the Australian Sevens – coach Michael O’Connor.
A dual international, O’Connor represented Australia in both Rugby Union and League over a much-heralded 13 year football career which spanned from 1979-1992
O’Connor toured as part of the Australian Schools Rugby squad in 1977 alongside Wallaby greats the Ella brothers and rugby league legend Wally Lewis. Capped on 13 occasions in Wallaby Gold, O’Connor was highly regarded by critics of the game – new and old – as one of the most skilful and powerful centres to have played.
O’Connor switched codes in 1983, joining the St. George Dragons before heading north to join Manly in 1987. O’Connor represented both New South Wales and Australia in the 13-man code, capped on 19 and 17 occasions respectively with both representative sides. O’Connor went down in State of Origin folklore for a sideline conversion in torrential rain after the final siren to win Game Two of the 1991 series.
After his retirement in 1992, O’Connor took up an administrative role with the Australian Rugby Union before taking on the role of ARU’s Talent Identification Coordinator for a number of years.
In 2006 O’Connor was appointed as an independent selector for the Qantas Wallabies alongside coaches John Connolly and Scott Johnson, before moving across the board to head up the Australian Sevens in 2008.
A sometimes forgotten fact in the illustrious career of Michael O’Connor’s is that the current Australian Sevens boss was also a master of the shortened form of the game himself. O’Connor spent the better part of three seasons in the national Sevens squad, a time that inspired a passion for the seven-a-side version of the game.
“It’s something I have always been passionate about,” O’Connor said speaking to Rugby HQ.
“I went to Hong Kong three times and so I’ve always had a passion and interest in Sevens.”
When asked about his current squad, who this weekend will attempt to take out the Adelaide-leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series, O’Connor was honest in his analysis of the youthful outfit.
“They have been slower-starting but the bar has been raised again this year with other teams like England and New Zealand and the standard is really quite high,” O’Connor said.
“I’m happy where we are and we are knocking on the door.
“We’ve come close to sides like Samoa and South Africa and we’re playing against sides with four or five years-experience.
“We are thereabouts at the moment and it isn’t going to take too much more for these guys to go further.”
When asked if he had any particular highlights from his time thus far in the top job of Sevens Rugby, O’Connor had a clear favourite among his many since taking on the role in 2008.
“Winning in London has been the biggest highlight so far, obviously to win the title at the home of rugby.”
Hopefully his team can repeat their success from London this weekend at the International Rugby Sevens Adelaide.
Tickets are still available for the fifth annual International Rugby Sevens Adelaide and start from just $55 for a two-day pass. Visit Ticketek www.ticketek.com.au
For more information visit www.adelaidesevens.com.au