We caught up with one of Rugby Union’s best, James O’Connor, to chat about his football journey so far, looking forward to the World Cup, and looking back at that first ‘peacocking’ InStitchu suit in 2012.
James, you’ve had a long and successful rugby career, and it’s been one of several chapters. What's been the highlight so far?
There’s been many a highlight on the rugby pitch. The two moments that stand out most though would be the first time I beat the All Blacks - it was a match in Hong Kong and I actually kicked the goal after the hooter to seal the win. And secondly would be captaining the QLD Reds to the Super Rugby Australian Premiership in 2021.
What can you say about playing in big games? How do you stay focused on your own game on a big stage?
I’m a big believer in preparation. It all starts during the week. When you put the work in and really nail the details of game plan and your own personal physical regime early on, it allows you that freedom to really go out on the field during the match and really just play. You have the confidence in your prep and the team’s cohesion, so your ability to respond in moments becomes that much clearer.
What can you tell us about the future of your footy career? Are you focused on the World Cup, or are you taking things a game at a time?
It’s always a blend of both. I think it’s important to set goals and have targets that you are working towards. It allows you to measure your progress as an individual within a team environment. Then within that I find it helpful to stay in the present—focus on each week. This keeps me a lot fresher and allows me to get excited for every match. In saying this, the World Cup is on everyone’s mind, mine included.
There were some exciting signs last year for the Wallabies. Are you encouraged by the state of Australian rugby at the moment?
I believe as a whole we are in a lot better shape than we have been in the past—grass roots footy is beginning to excel again. We are also keeping a lot of our talented young players in the country, which only bolsters our comp and national team but also gives the fans more to get behind.
What are your passions outside of sport? Have you given any thought to what you’ll get up to after you hang up the boots?
I love getting out into nature. Whether it’s the rainforest, ocean, lakes—anywhere there is water and expansive spaces. I’m working on a few things at the moment, for life after rugby, but it’s still a little early to share. I have really enjoyed taking more of a senior role off the field, creating game plans with the Reds and helping coach on the field at times…so it could possibly be something in that space also.
Talk to us about your sense of style. Given so much of your life is spent in footy gear, do you feel comfortable in a suit or more tailored garments?
My style has changed a lot over the years. If you take a look at my first suits ever tailored by InStitchu back in 2012 I think we would all have a little laugh at my style back then—peacocking was high on the list, including a double-breasted cream safari suit, and a baby blue lounge suit. Not that there's anything wrong with that, just nowadays I’m all about classic clean lines, more neutral shades and a focus on comfort.
How was your InStitchu experience? Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted, or were you guided by your Stylist?
It was a great experience. This was the first time I’ve actually been into the Showroom for a fitting so it was helpful seeing example designs, as well as on the screen. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted, and my Stylist, Blake, really brought the idea in my head to life with my final design, with some really cool customisations, details and the little touches—I’m very pleased with how it turned out.
Take us through the suit you designed. What are the details that you chose and why?
I designed a grey three piece suit with the vest a textured darker charcoal colour. We went for a five button closure on the vest and a one button closure on the jacket to really make the vest a feature and pop. I chose slim peak lapels for the jacket and minimal pockets to really give it that leaner and cleaner look.