'More important than the World Cup': Why Thorn wanted to win Super Rugby title more than Webb Ellis Cup

Super Rugby - AU
by Christy Doran

Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn says he viewed winning the 2011 Super Rugby tournament as more important to win than New Zealand's home World Cup that same year.

As history shows, Thorn's Crusaders lost 18-13 to the Reds who won their maiden title in front of a record home crowd of more than 52,000 at Suncorp Stadium, before going on to hoist the Webb Ellis Cup with New Zealand by sneaking home against France 8-7 in October.

But the surprising admission came after the local Brisbane press asked Thorn, who has coached the Reds since 2018 and has them on track to reach the finals for the first time since 2013, whether he could remember Queensland hosting a final.

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All Thorn could do was roll his eyes as his memory jolted back to the pain of losing in 2011.

"It hurt. It hurt as much as any game," dual-international Thorn said.

"At that time, to me, that was more important than the World Cup, as crazy as it sounds, that year because of what was going on in Christchurch."

What was going, of course, was that the bit by bit, piece by piece, Christchurch was having to start against after a magnitude 6.3 earthquake left the city in rubble and devastated on February 22, 2011.

The Crusaders would ultimately be forced to play away from their traditional fortress of AMI Stadium.

"They talked about the two cities (Brisbane and Christchurch) and the floods," Thorn said.

"I was here (in Brisbane), I used to always come back for six weeks over the summer, I was here for the floods and it was traumatic and there were lives lost.

"The earthquakes, that was something different.

"Everyone saw on the news that there's been an earthquake and then you get on with you life. 8000 aftershocks, 5 (6.3) on the Richter scale.

"That was a tough time for Christchurch. We had no games, we traveled across (the country).

"That meant a lot at the time.

"Then on the other side, seeing 52,000 fans at Suncorp, and an exciting team that played good footy and just how good that was for rugby. It had been lean times since the early 2000s."

Thorn could have added that it's been lean times since the Reds' triumph year in 2011 too.

Since Ewen McKenzie engineered the Reds' revival and, ultimately, parted ways with the franchise two years later, the Reds have yet to make a finals campaign.

LISTEN: The day Ewen McKenzie drove a Waratahs bus throughout Canberra to help his side snap their hoodoo. NSW assistant coach Chris Whitaker joins The Rugby Nation Show


That piece of unwanted history can be put to bed over the next month as they look to seal a top three place in Super Rugby AU.

Asked whether there was some added pressure on the Reds given their recent lean years, Thorn said the competitiveness throughout the tournament meant his side couldn't afford to look beyond Friday night's match against the Force.

"I don't think the pressure, just the potential to do that is exciting," Thorn said.

"Just go along with this next job in front of us which is the Force, a highly motivated side, but gee if you get some results then how good would it be to have some finals in Brisbane.

"It's been a while, hasn't it?

"You've seen the last two weeks, the Waratahs game, you saw the Brumbies ... and then we had the Rebels, so this team has learned that you've got to make sure that you're on each week.

"The focus has to be on the task at hand. If we get this job done then we can look past that."

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FORCE: (1-15): Pek Cowan, Andrew Ready, Kieran Longbottom, Jeremy Thrush, Ollie Atkins, Fergus Lee-Warner, Kane Koteka, Brynard Stander, Ian Prior (c), Jono Lance, Brad Lacey, Richard Kahui, Kyle Godwin, Byron Ralston, Jack Stachan

Reserves: Heath Tessmann, Chris Heiberg, Tom Sheminant, Johan Bardoul, Ollie Callan, Nick Frisby, Jack McGregor, Henry Taefu

REDS (1-15): Jack Straker, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Taniela Tupou, Angus Blyth, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Liam Wright (c), Fraser McReight,  Harry Wilson,  Tate McDermott, James O'Connor, Filipo Daugunu,Hamish Stewart, Josh Flook, Jordan Petaia, Jock Campbell, 

Reserves: Josh Nasser, Harry Hoopert, Zane Nonggorr, Tuaina Taii Tualima, Angus Scott-Young, Moses Sorovi, Bryce Hegarty, Jack Hardy

The Force take on the Reds at Cbus Super Stadium on Friday August 21, kicking off at 7:05pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel, Foxtel Now and Kayo Sports. Buy tickets here. Buy a Kayo subscription here.