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James O'Connor sharpens up for Wallabies with Yamba gesture and Brothers

Tue, 26/07/2022, 12:27 am
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker

James O’Connor has sharpened up for the Wallabies tour of Argentina with a surprise appearance at the Yamba Buccaneers and 40 minutes of impact for club side Brothers.

The long-serving Wallaby utility back gave a wonderful sign of his appreciation of grassroots rugby with an unscripted drop-in at Buccaneers training last Thursday.

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Yamba Buccaneers Club President Adrian Miller said O’Connor’s generous act was greatly appreciated by a tiny club which gathers just 20 senior players for most games and fields five junior sides.

James O'Conner Yamba

O’Connor was presented with a gold-and-black Buccaneers cap and stubby holder as a thank you.

“James was awesome. What he did for us says a lot about him and the Wallabies if he’s willing to drop in with his boots on during some rare time-off,” Miller said.

“The whole thing was completely random. I spotted him when dropping my son off at soccer training at the Ngayundi Sports Complex.

“I said ‘what the hell are you doing here?’. He was enjoying a few days rest with his partner before Wallabies camp started for the Argentina tour.

“I told him it was the last thing he probably felt like but could he drop into my rugby club.

“I expected he might show for five minutes but he turned up earlier than some of our players...and with his footy boots.

“He yarned to the players and then spent another 30-40 minutes playing ruck touch with us.

“He obviously left old No.8s like me for dust but it was fantastic to have one of our best Under-16s players (flyhalf) Zephyr Trottman involved and have a bit of a chat.”

James O'Conner with Yamba Team

O’Connor is not the first Wallaby to put Yamba on the rugby map. It’s the home club of former Wallabies lock Kane Douglas and Wallaby-in-waiting Jed Holloway.

O’Connor’s poor second Test cameo against England in Brisbane when he kicked a ball out on the full, didn’t find touch from a penalty and lost the ball cost him his bench spot for the deciding Test.

It was rustiness more than anything after so little rugby in recent months because of hamstring issues.

He corrected that with a sharp 40 minutes at flyhalf and inside centre for Brisbane club Brothers in their 47-12 thrashing of Souths in the StoreLocal Hospital Cup last Saturday.

He was first receiver in a slick set play try for winger Sam Hyne and was the quick hands in the backs for further Tayler Adams and Ash Watson tries in the first half. O’Connor made another burst and offload as he looked to always get involved.

He banged two kicks of good distance but had too much juice on a third which bounced dead in-goal and meant a scrum back in his own team’s half.

The hit out was just what O’Connor needed before the Wallabies fly out for their two Tests in Argentina.

Likewise, winger SuliasiVunivalu will have gained benefit from playing 40 minutes on debut for leaders Wests in their 20-15 victory over Bond University on the Gold Coast.

Vunivalu did smoothly claim one muddied high ball in the heavy conditions but one surge on the shortside was pretty much all he had to do in attack for a side which played to the conditions with two driving maul tries from lineouts.   

 SUliasi Vunivalu Wests

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