Seeking James O’Connor to join the Chiefs next year ended before it started with Rugby Australia that blocked the release request. He NZ Herald reported that the Wallabies playmaker approached the Chiefs to move to New Zealand next year, citing a strong desire to test your skills in Super Rugby Aotearoa. However, the dream of the 10 was quickly cut short.
O’Connor’s parents are New Zealanders and he has a Kiwi passport after spending the early stages of his life across the Tasman Sea, so he saw the possible switch to the Chiefs as something of a homecoming of sorts. The 30-year-old returned to Australia from the Sale Sharks in 2019, signing a two-and-a-half-year contract with Rugby Australia and the Queensland Reds, having not played for the Wallabies since 2013.
After a good season with the Reds and Wallabies, O’Connor polled several All Blacks about moving to the Chiefs. The opening thought a release was a mere formality, but Rugby Australia flatly rejected O’Connor’s request, leaving the Chiefs with Kaleb Trask, Bryn Gatland, Rivez Reihana and Damian McKenzie as the starting options next year.
Chiefs CEO Michael Collins expressed the enthusiasm that the Hamilton-based franchise had to have O’Connor’s services for next season. “James approached us and we were eager to sign himbut at the end of the day we couldn’t even cross the line, “he said.