James O’Connor continues to show he is a changed man, turning up to Reds training more than three weeks ahead of schedule in a bid to make the most of his Super Rugby return.
O’Connor was invited into Wallabies camp before his signing with the Reds was officially announced and while he met with head coach Brad Thorn and senior club officials to convince them he was worth taking a punt on, he had yet to meet his teammates.
Queensland’s five World Cup Wallabies - O’Connor, Jordan Petaia, Izack Rodda, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Taniela Tupou - were not due back at training until December 16.
But O’Connor lobbed at Ballymore early to get to know his new teammates and coaching staff, his actions backing up his reflections on his Wallabies return in July that he was a changed man.
“I spent six years in the wilderness and found myself and developed and learnt a lot about rugby and a lot off the field,” he said.
"I guess I know what's important to me now and this is it."
The 29-year-old’s return is already paying dividends.
He was a valuable member of the Wallabies’ World Cup squad, where his work with Petaia is likely to bear fruit for Queensland, with the pair tipped to be a potent centre combination in a team shooting for a first Super Rugby finals appearance since 2013.
Thorn is keen to see O’Connor succeed in his return to Queensland.
“I guess this is another opportunity for James and it's a pretty important one to get right,” Thorn said earlier this year when O’Connor’s recruitment was confirmed.
“We all like a redemption story … you have errors, you have mistakes and you like seeing guys turn that around.
"With James, it looks like he's in a pretty good space ... and we're pleased to have him."
O’Connor and the remaining Queensland Wallabies will leave the training track in a few weeks through, replicating their teammates’ successful Reds to Regions tour, visiting North Queensland and the Scenic Rim.
As well as school and club visits, the players will take part in work experience and be billeted with rugby families.