Reds join O'Connor race
Queensland Reds admit they would like to sign Western Force star James O'Connor.
Last Updated: 18/04/11 7:29pm
Coach Ewen McKenzie has confirmed his interest in Western Force star James O'Connor, saying he hopes the allure of Queensland would attract the 20-year-old to the Reds.
There have been plenty of rumours floating about that O'Connor has already committed to Melbourne, but at this stage the youngster remains unsigned and up for grabs.
Throwing their hat into the ring with the Rebels, Force and Brumbies, the Reds will offer O'Connor the carrot of returning to his home state and joining with Quade Cooper as part of an exciting double punch.
Queensland coach McKenzie, who personally phoned O'Connor to express the Reds' interest, stressed that talks were in their infancy and said he had been obligated to investigate the landscape when a player of such talent appeared on the market.
"I spoke to him because it became quite clear from the paper talk that he was looking at his options, so in that space, you've got be involved in the marketplace and he's a pretty good player," McKenzie said.
"I contacted him on that basis and I'll have a chat with his manager today, see what the lay of the land is.
"He's pretty much asked his manager to consider the options, look around and see who's interested. We're just working out how interested we are.
"He's also a Queenslander. His family is still here, so when he's not training with the Wallabies he's training here at Ballymore.
"He's from here, so we understand all of that background. In that context, he's worth having a chat with."
However, it would seem the likelihood of the Reds making a competitive offer for the prodigious talent is small, as they already have a roster with a rising market value.
And while O'Connor undoubtedly falls into the category of special talent, the Reds already have an abundance of brilliant backs jostling for positions.
Ben Lucas, Peter Hynes and Will Chambers are among the proven performers who were not in the starting backline that ran riot against the Bulls last weekend at Suncorp Stadium, but McKenzie pointed at the need for depth and constant improvement as reasons to pursue the target.
"My job is to try to make the team as good as it can possibly be," he said. "You can already see from the way the season's panning out for all the teams that you need more than 15 players.
"You've got to make sure you've got the best squad you can and that allows you some flexibility.
"He's a very good player. We've seen it time and time again. He scores points every week for the Force, he's done well at the Wallaby level, goal-kicker - there's a lot of reasons why he's a good player."