Queensland’s recent record would strike fear into any prospective coach, since 2014 they have come, 13th, 13th, 15th and 14th. With a total of 16 wins and 45 losses. Clearly a complete over haul of the culture and playing group was long overdue.
Brad Thorn, in his first year as a professional head coach, is the latest man to step up to the plate. Thirteen games in two things are clear.
- Thorn’s hard edged, unforgiving style of play is the hallmark of his coaching style. His players look strong, can scrum the house down, and on their day boast one of the most feared forward packs in the game.
- He isn’t afraid to make the tough calls. The most significant of these would be his refusal to play Quade Cooper, Nick Frisby and Karmichael Hunt.
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After 13 Rounds of Super Rugby the Queensland Reds have 4 wins and 6 losses, most recently they went down 63-28 against the Sunwolves in Japan, for the Sunwolves first win of the season.
So how do we judge Brad Thorn at the end of this season? He has brought through a number of young players to try and build his team for the future. With the youngest squad in the competition we surely can’t judge him purely on results. So instead I believe we should judge him by his actions.
There is no doubt he has provided a positive culture change to the club, but just how long that will last with big losses against low ranked teams and seemingly the lack of an attacking game plan is questionable.
On the other hand the refusal to use Quade Cooper, a 70 test Wallaby, in any capacity, will surely be his most notable action from the season. The question needs to be asked, why does a rookie coach believe he can go against the rest of Australian Rugby’s advice to use the tools Quade offers. Australian Rugby is sinking more than $600,000 a year into Quade for this year and next, money that they can not afford to lose. It seems common place for coaches to make changes to their roster over the first few years as the existing contracted players expire. If Brad’s actions were common place we could expect a list of unused players on big money around the world. Something that just does not happen.
For this reason I believe Brad Thorn’s first stint as a professional head coach must be deemed a failure, with significant mistakes. His decisions screams arrogance, no doubt he will learn from this season, but the price will be paid by an already struggling Rugby Australia.
To finish off I’d like to look at the flip side of the equation. Quade Cooper has reportedly turned down offers from the Rebels and the Brumbies as Rugby Australia tries to find him a home. When Raelene Castle was questioned on the topic on Kick & Chase this week she seemed agitated that he had refused to sign with another franchise. Quade continues to write his own narrative on social media, saying he wants to earn his way back to the Wallabies through club rugby. Something that clearly will not happen with Thorn well and truly shutting the door on him. So the only other conceivable reason that he would turn down other offers is simple. He does not believe he can make the Wallabies, and he’d rather stick it to Rugby Australia by banking 1.2 million dollars over the next two years. Preserving his body and extending his career to hopefully take up a lucrative offer in Japan or Europe. If i’m wrong, we will see the once great Australian rugby player sign for another Aussie franchise this year so that he can have a crack at the 2019 world cup. I’m not holding my breath.
Written by Harrison Dale