Thorn's time to take control

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

Brad Thorn is as old school as they come.

He is living, breathing proof of what good old fashioned hard work, determination and a dash of talent can produce.

In a 22-year career, that head down, bum up mentality manufactured a Rugby World Cup, five Bledisloe Cups, three Tri-Nations titles, two Grand Slams, a Super Rugby title, Heineken Cup crown, three NRL premierships, two State of Origin shields and legendary status across two codes.

That success has both rugby and rugby league fans enamoured with the man that is charged with leading yet another rebuild of the Queensland Reds.

While his indubitable success on field has plenty to do with that public fixation, the worldwide love for Thorn and the thirst for every word he says is also bred by the realisation that he is a man who represents a bygone era.

Thorn regularly hoisted trophies high above his head. Photo: Getty ImagesBefore Steve Jobs, smartphones and social media changed the world, actions were far more important than words and that, according to Thorn, had been lost at Ballymore.

"I feel like in today's society, people love to talk, they love to yap," Thorn told RUGBY.com.au.

"We have a lot of social media and these sort of things - that's all very 'look at me'.

"I prefer actions and then your words are respected, your words have meaning.

"I drive that with the guys - don't tell me about it, show it.

"Don't tell people, show it - through your actions.

"I think that has suited a lot of the guys - good old fashioned hard work, smarts and spending time together."Thorn steered Queensland Country to a miraculous title run. Photo: QRU Media/Brendan HertelIn those six sentences, one can see Thorn's core principle as a coach.

The unwavering belief in that principle is bred by Thorn's experiences as a player, particularly as a junior.

"I wasn't the loudest guy," Thorn said.

"What I loved about the game as a 6-year-old right through to my teens - especially in my teens - I was a big goofy looking kid with acne, battling away.

"But on the footy field - it was where I could express myself through my actions.

"It was good for mateship - I knew I wasn't the coolest dude but they knew I cared about them.


"It's something that I have loved throughout my career.

"The number one thing I love about the game is the camaraderie.

"When you have that, you will do stuff for each other, you will play hard for each other and you will sacrifice to become a committed group."

Driving this home to a group of players has worked for Thorn before.

A pair of undefeated seasons at the head of a Queensland U20s side stacked with talent was a start but in Queensland Country's 2017 NRC title, Thorn proved to himself that he could turn the Reds around.

Country were the NRC's battlers.


From 2014 to 2016, they were Brisbane City's poor cousin, toiling away in the bottom two or three of the table, conceding an inordinate amount of points every year.

When Thorn arrived, he flipped the script and led them to an incredible run to the top of the competition.

"The NRC was a test case for me - just to see if we could change a culture and whether I could do it - I was asking myself that," Thorn said.

"I had Paul Carozza assisting me and we have Tony McGahan here now as well, who has been great, but it was great to see some turnaround there.

"I didn't expect to win a final - I just wanted to see something - it was very simple.

"I just wanted to see something different and they bought in."Thorn wants to overhaul the culture at Ballymore. Photo: Getty ImagesWanting to 'see something' may not sound like much to Reds fans but in his own, unique way, it means far more to Thorn than meets the eye.

That 'something', for Thorn, is a complete culture change at Ballymore.

Step one of that plan was the removal of Nick Frisby and Quade Cooper - the team's chief playmakers this time last year - from the squad altogether.

Thorn is going to do this job his way and he makes no apologies for doing so.

"Something needed to change at this club and I don't have a coaching career to protect or worry about stats," he said.

"I'm just here to serve the club as best I can.


"The last four years have been pretty bleak - 62 games, we have won 16 - something has got to change and it's not going to be all rosy.

"I could have just kept on cruising along with everyone happy but there needed to be change - just like their did with the NRC side."

Thorn will live by the sword and die by the sword.

He is yet to fail in doing that to date and if he does, he will be at peace.

"The way I see it, I hopefully at the very least can leave the place in better shape for the next guy.

"Of course, I would prefer it to go well, but that's how it rolls with me.

"Let's rock on and see where it takes us."

The Reds open the Super Rugby season against the Rebels at AAMI Park on Friday February 23, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT. Buy tickets here.