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Brad Thorn: A Tribute
What can be said about this man and his career that hasn’t already been? His commitment and passion for both rugby union and rugby league is something that can be admired and respected by all, and should be a benchmark, albeit a very high one, by which any sports player should professional strive to achieve it. You have to admit, if you made it to Brad Thorn and just missed it, you’ve still done pretty well.
His first spell at the Brisbane Broncos is immediately noteworthy, not just for his own personal achievements but for the speed with which they were achieved. During the 94 season, when he played for the first time in week twelve, he took the rookie of the year award with representative honors for Queensland and Australia to follow within the next three years. The 97 grand final would be Thorn’s first taste of premiership glory, one he would experience the following year and then again in 2000.
After achieving success at all levels in rugby league, Thorn turned his attention to the ruthless and unforgiving world of New Zealand rugby. Someone less talented and determined might have stumbled in this new, harsh environment but barely missed a beat. The Canterbury Crusaders took out the NPC with Thorn sliding, almost effortlessly, into the front lock position. At the end of the season he was offered the chance to become the first man since Bill Hardcastle to represent Australia in rugby league and New Zealand in rugby union, but he declined, stating his uncertainty about his commitment to the fifteen-man game. But, by 2003, he could no longer resist the temptation and made his official debut for the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup and continued to represent them in the Tri-Nations which New Zealand would go on to win.
A final NPC with Canterbury would see Thorn return once again to the Broncos in 2005. Although many expected to see the champion on in the twilight of his career, nothing would seem further from the truth. He would go on to not only represent Queensland but also take the other premiership in 2006. After being named one of the top 20 Broncos to ever play for the club, he decided, once again, to switch back to rugby union.
Thorn was once again in unstoppable form, earning Crusader and All Black selection in just his second year back in the game. After more than 14 great titles and the success of the Tri-Nations, he finally reached rugby’s holy grail by winning the World Cup after a hard-fought 8-7 win against France in 2011. As if this wasn’t enough, a short with Europe the Leinster champions would see him add the Heineken Cup to his long list of achievements.
When you want to describe a man like Brad Thorn any number of superlatives will do. But to fully understand how amazing this career is, you first have to realize that it’s not even over yet. That’s right, at the age of 37 Thorn has signed on with the Highlanders’ Super Rugby franchise for the 2013 season. For myself, it’s almost certain that this will be his swan song but for some reason there remains a lingering doubt. I guess with someone like Brad Thorn, you can never be sure of anything?
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