James O'Connor has responded to former Wallaby and commentator Greg Martin's stinging criticism of the 25-year-old, who he labelled the 'Justin Bieber' of Australian rugby.
O'Connor, who was recently released by the Queensland Reds due to "personal issues" to ink a new contract in France, wrote a lengthy Facebook post which accused of Martin of "trivialising mental illness" and "bullying plain and simple".
The rugby prodigy has confounded critics, coaches and players alike during an erratic career plagued by off-field issues by a perceived inability to realise his unquestionable potential.
O'Connor posted on his professional Facebook page on Thursday evening to defend himself after Martin called him an "immature t**t" and a "little young punk" on live radio.
"I have learned to accept that criticism is part of the game. It’s something that I have learned to accept and deal with, without it affecting the way I perform," O'Connor wrote.
"Greg did not say these comments while I was present, he offered me no chance to respond and frankly from the position I stand he does not care. He has no interest in the truth; he has no interest in finding the real story. Greg’s interest is his own opinion and making his own headlines, with no consideration to whom he drags through the mud.
"Instead of support, Greg felt it necessary to question my character when for all he knows; my mental state could be extremely unstable."
O'Connor said he would deliberately not make a personal attack on Martin, and responded to criticism of his commitment to Australian rugby, asserting that he has "tremendous respect" for the Wallabies felt he always gave it his all.
The controversial outside back also questioned the point of building athletes to "astronomical proportions" in the public eye, only to be "torn down by those exacty people that helped build them up".
"At the end of the day, while being somebody in the spotlight, I am a person. I may not talk the way you want me to, carry myself in such a way that is agreeable to some, but in what world does that give someone the right to destroy someone’s integrity in a public forum."
Read O'Connor's full post here. (Warning: Foul language in the comments below the post).Suggest a correction