Graham tips O'Connor Brumbies move
Western Force coach Richard Graham claims the ACT Brumbies are the most likely destination for Australia star James O'Connor.
O'Connor has been strongly linked with the Melbourne Rebels after the Force withdrew their final contract offer and parted ways with the player on Wednesday. But Graham admitted he saw the Brumbies as favourites to sign O'Connor.
"I would think Jake (incoming Brumbies coach Jake White) and Eddie (former coach Eddie Jones) coming in there would possibly influence him to go to Canberra," Graham said.
"The Waratahs clearly didn't have any interest from the start, the Reds, given the way they've recruited over the last period of time clearly won't have a place for him, so clearly it's going to be Melbourne or the Brumbies. I would think possibly the Brumbies."
The Force were desperate to keep O'Connor and made him an offer which would have made him the highest paid player at the club, but Graham insisted he was confident they could overcome his departure.
"We as a team have displayed over the last three or four weeks, with or without James, that we are moving forward as an organisation," he said. "James has been part of the organisation for the last four years. And has become a Wallaby from the Force. So no doubt there will be some disappointment. But now it's an opportunity for us to move forward.
"I have been active in the market for the past four or five months during this negotiation and will continue to do so."
Despite the drawn-out negotiations, which went on for more than four months and saw O'Connor linked to the Reds, Rebels, Brumbies and Force at different times, Graham insisted there was no animosity towards the 21-year-old.
"James has conducted himself well throughout a long period of four and a half months," he said.
"The one thing I'll say, in our discussions he chose to continue negotiations with the Force because he saw us as the best rugby programme. His decision now to leave is, in my view, obviously for other reasons."