Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn has responded to the unnamed criticism of his methods from a Rugby Australia [RA] source, agreeing that it was “gutless” and insisting he had no issues working with Wallabies staff.
Tensions between the Reds and RA are simmering after Queensland Rugby Union [QRU] boss David Hanham expressed his disappointment that the unnamed source had described Thorn as “not a team player” and that he would need to change his ways if he was to one day coach the Wallabies.
Thorn was quoted in the same Sydney Morning Herald article, confirming his interest in eventually graduating to the top job in Australian rugby.
Speaking ahead of his side’s Super Rugby Pacific match against the Rebels in Melbourne, Thorn said he was frustrated that the criticism was faceless and pointed to his own dual-code playing career as proof he was indeed a team player.
“It’s always interesting when someone says something like that, but if there’s no name to it, who am I talking to,” Thorn said. “If it was someone close to me, or my staff, or my family, or [someone] was critiquing me in that way, then it hurts. But who are you talking to, there’s no name to it?
“Obviously from my playing career, in league or union, I wasn’t a guy scoring lots of tries or [doing] flash stuff, I was often hitting breakdowns [or] taking hit-ups in league, sort of more the team stuff. I’ve been big on team here [at the Reds], I really don’t know what to say [about it].”
There have been suggestions that Thorn had been reluctant to have Wallabies staff involved at training this season, with RA pursuing greater alignment across its high-performance programs.
There have also been reports that the QRU remains in stark opposition to a plan to move towards a more centralised system run out of head office in Sydney, a program that would be akin to that which operates across the ditch in New Zealand.
For his part, though, Thorn said he had welcomed Rennie and multiple other Wallabies staff members to Ballymore this season. He also agreed the commentary in the Herald article was “gutless”.
“Yes, anything you say [that way],” he told reporters. “Right now I’m having to talk about it because someone just said something. I’m just living my life, doing my thing.
“We had Dave Rennie in here yesterday, Matt Taylor was here on Monday, staff that work with at RA. Damien Marsh, a dietician who works with both of us, you could go all day about the connections. Petrus [Du Plessis] was in twice this year, Wisey’s [Scott Wisemantel] been in.
“So it’s annoying that I’m having to stand here and talk about something. If [you feel] strongly about something then have a chat, communicate, that’s normal. But if you don’t have a name to it … it sucks for me, because I’m standing here talking about it.
“I haven’t said anything, I just said what I’d like to think most Super Rugby coaches in Australia would say, that they hold the Wallabies and the Wallaby coaching in high esteem; that it would be an honour and a privilege, a responsibility, if you ever got that opportunity. But you have to earn the right.
“Sometime down the track, who knows where you end up? Maybe you’re not coaching at all, you’re doing something else in your life. But maybe if you stay in coaching, then wouldn’t that be a positive thing to maybe represent your country in that way?
“So that’s the words I’ve said, my name’s next to it. But it’s unfortunate that I’ve got to stand here and tell me to talk about it.”
While Brumbies coach and current Wallabies assistant Dan McKellar remains the popular pick to succeed Rennie, the Kiwi has also flagged the idea that he may wish to coach on beyond his existing deal which concludes after next year’s Rugby World Cup.
That may put McKellar and Thorn on a collision course for the same role after the British & Irish Lions series, with the dual international saying this week’s criticism hadn’t turned him off applying for the role in the future when it became available.
“It’s sort of water off a duck’s back, because like I said if you’ve got someone saying something but who is it?” he said. “You’ve got lots of people, lots of connection with people coming in and out [of the Reds] or whatever … but if it was from people that I knew or someone said that to me then I could take that on board.
“But it’s just something that’s been said, so I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.”