James O'Connor wants to come home to Queensland. But is the former Wallaby needed – or wanted – by the Reds?
Time to take stock of our three amigos. You take your eye off them for one minute and El Guapo goes loco.
Kurtley Beale (Chevy Chase): Has seemingly found a happy home at the Waratahs, where he is playing quality football in an impressive side on the up.
Quade Cooper (Steve Martin): Has become a wise old man at the Reds and Wallabies. Eats cleans, trains hard, talks sense, occasionally beats up gents named "Warren".
James O'Connor (Martin Short, obviously): Finds himself on the outside looking inwards. Banished by the ARU, currently in France, wants back in, likes the idea of his home state of Queensland. Everything to prove.
With two of Australian rugby's formerly testing trio now respectable footballing citizens, it appears O'Connor wants to get the band back together. The drums are beating louder and louder that he craves a return to Super Rugby, with the Reds his first-choice destination.
And so to the questions. Are the Reds interested? Would Ewen McKenzie have him back? Has he matured enough to be worth the gamble? Would he be prepared to play on a budget rate? How would he wear his hair?
As my colleague at The Sydney Morning Herald, Georgina Robinson, has been reporting, O'Connor has become serious about returning home from Europe to try and restart his Test career.
It's not "paper talk" either. The desire is real and the feelers sent out to explore the options. Now he will wait and see if his flirtations with the various franchises illicit any positive response.
The ARU would rather O'Connor head west to his former side, although he was not exactly carried out on his shield when he left the Force for the first time. But it's the Reds, now coached by O'Connor's former boss Richard Graham, that will be at the top of his wish list.
It all presents an interesting dilemma at Ballymore, assuming there's any interest at all from chief executive Jim Carmichael, a noted hard-marker who doesn't suffer fools lightly. Much would depend on whether McKenzie was prepared to smoke the peace pipe, or whether the ARU could find a few coins to sweeten any deal (hint: check in that little compartment in the dashboard).
From a pure rugby perspective, the Reds could probably make use of O'Connor in the outside backs. They have attacking talent like Aidan Toua and Chris Feauai-Sautia but wouldn't turn their nose up at a dash of class in the centres or wing.
And like him or not, O'Connor brings a profile. The Reds understand what that means in a crowded and hugely competitive market. Faces bring fans, fans turn into members, members keep the province with money in the bank.
Then, there's the flipside. It's significant. O'Connor has managed to napalm bridges all around this wide, brown land. Rest assured, not everyone at Ballymore would be clapping him through the door, although that's an issue he'd confront wherever he played.
He would need to be given the benefit of some monstrous doubts. Could he be trusted to buy into the team culture, entrenched by McKenzie and now carried forward by Graham? Would he be a disruptive influence on Cooper, who has turned his life around so successfully?
All of it represents a risky play for a franchise that his risen from the depths and is now fanatical about staying at, or near, the top. Players are expected to meet impeccable standards, whether it be dealing with media, sponsors, fans or on the field. O'Connor isn't the obvious candidate to fit that brief.
But people change. Beale and Cooper, O'Connor's former bros-in-arms, are a prime example. If the Reds open their door and shape him up, they will reap the benefits. They didn't win the title in 2011 by refusing to roll the dice.
The story Would James O'Connor be worth the risk for the Queensland Reds? first appeared on Brisbane Times.