(Reuters) - Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn believes James O'Connor's transformation from rugby bad boy to leadership material is nearing completion after he led them to a record victory over New South Wales Waratahs in the Super Rugby AU season-opener.
O'Connor was the second-youngest Wallaby in Australian rugby history at the age of 18, but struggled to hold down his place and twice left for European stints as a series of drug- and alcohol-related episodes followed him.
But O'Connor's record in recent years has been spotless and Thorn said his appointment to the captaincy shows the 30-year-old has regained respect of his team mates on and off the field.
"James' story, to captain his state, is really cool and I know it means a lot to him and I'm really proud of him," Thorn told reporters after the Reds won 41-7 win on Friday.
"I'm not sure if James remembers, but when he first came in we had that chat around the narrative around him.
"We all love a redemption story and he's done that and most importantly he's done it through his actions."
Replacing the injured skipper Liam Wright, O'Connor, had a flawless night from the tee, kicking two penalties and five conversions, and played an integral role in the try that sealed victory at Suncorp Stadium.
Despite their strong start, O'Connor believes the Reds still have room for improvement.
"It was a good start to the year but wasn't at clinical as we can be," he said.
"It could have blown out and got a lot sloppier than it did... but we did exactly what we said we would."
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)