Brad Thorn's cross-code success all down to his dad
THE only player to win an NRL premiership, State of Origin series, Tests for Australia and capture rugby union's Triple Crown - a Super Rugby title, Heineken club championship and a World Cup with the All Blacks - Brad Thorn remains a humble man.
He told Australian Regional Media's Josh Spasaro he owed his great success to his late father.
BRAD Thorn knows if it wasn't for his father Lindsay's tough love and a threat to turn his back on him as a teenager, he would not have scaled the dizzy heights he did playing rugby league and rugby union.
His dad was a watchmaker by trade, and it could be said where his son was concerned he had perfect timing.
Lindsay became fed up with his son's laziness to the point where he threatened to walk away if he didn't change his attitude and commit himself to being a dedicated football player.
"My dad had a big impact on me as a 16-year-old - he got me to strive to see how good I could be. I've followed that on ever since," Thorn, who has taken on a coaching role with the Queensland Reds, told Australian Regional Media.
"I'm not standing here if that didn't happen.
"I was just your basic big kid with some talent, who was lazy. Some days I'd turn up, some days I wouldn't.
"Sometimes I would have a big run, then not do much for the next 20 minutes.
"Dad just had enough and he made to do this run at the state forest out at Albany Creek - a tough hill run.
"That was a game-changer.
"He made me do it, forced me to."
Thorn still remembers what his dad said to him before the Albany Creek torture test that changed his life.
"He said: 'If you don't do it, I'm not giving you lifts anywhere any more because I'm sick of seeing you waste your talent'."
Sadly, his father passed away after he had played just seven games for Brisbane under coach Wayne Bennett.
But he could not have had a better coach at the time, as Bennett had a reputation for being a father-figure to many of his players, including Allan Langer and more recently Darius Boyd.
Bennett, a strong disciplinarian being a former policeman, met Thorn's father a few times after his son arrived at Red Hill as a lanky fresh-faced 18-year-old.
"You can tell he was pretty hard-nosed," Bennett told ARM. "His dad was probably trying to give him some tough love.
"Brad never talked much about that, but he loved his father - there was no doubt about that."
Like any son, Thorn wishes his father had been around to share in his wonderful career.
"He was my best mate. It's been nice how things have gone but it would be cool if he was around to have been part of it," he said
Bennett said Thorn was as tough as any player he had coached and one of the most committed to doing his job on the field.
A colossus of a man, Thorn played more than 500 professional games across both codes in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Ireland.
The father of four was so busy with his career and family he said he hasn't had time to reflect on his achievements, and could not even find some of his precious jerseys or memorabilia.
"No (I don't reflect), because I've been busy ... for 20 years," he said.
"I've got four kids, so if I'm not doing footy, I'm doing the family thing.
"There's no real life outside of that for me.
"I don't know where half my stuff is - it's in boxes ... seriously - because we lived abroad for eight years."
Thorn's hectic lifestyle isn't about to end soon after taking on the job of Reds' assistant coach for the rest of this season.
While Bennett is an avid Brad Thorn fan, it's hardly surprising the feeling goes both ways.
Thorn said the master coach never tried to complicate things, just required his players to give their best every time.
"Wayne's were not always grand speeches," he said.
"Even for myself, some of his best messages to me were just: 'be you - be Brad Thorn'.
"It wasn't 'pass here' or 'do this or that', it was 'believe in yourself and be who you are'."
High praise from coach Bennett
That is the word Broncos master coach Wayne Bennett chose to describe his former towering back-rower Brad Thorn, whose playing record across the two rugby codes stands unmatched.
Bennett said Thorn, whom he coached in all his 200 NRL games, arrived at Red Hill as a big, raw-boned 18-year-old at a time when the club had a wonderful roster of forwards.
"Commitment means you don't have a fall back position. It means you're always doing your best. Brad was a very committed bloke," Bennett told Australian Regional Media.
"He was like that from the first day he arrived here.
"He came to this club at a great time. There were wonderful men here. Glenn Lazarus was the prime prop in the world at the time, Trevor Gillmeister was a hard man and there was a young prop named Andrew Gee, all quality men.
"There were no shortcuts with those guys, they all loved the club. Gavin Allen was another real hard man.
"It was a great environment for a young player to come into and Brad was smart enough and committed enough to buy straight into it."
Was he up there with the toughest players Bennett has coached?
"He didn't have that 'crazy gene' like Kevin Campion or Peter Ryan," Bennett grinned.
"Those guys had the crazy gene when they crossed the line. Gorden Tallis was in that company as well.
"Brad was a tough man. He carried his training onto the field.
"Was he highly skilful? Could he blow you apart with a 50-metre run?
"He couldn't do any of those things, but he was a hard man who played hard and he would never let his teammates down.
"We won the 2006 premiership on the back of Brad and Shane Webcke and Petero Civoniceva, because those guys never let anyone down.
"They had that ethos.
"Nobody ever bagged Brad and he played the game as tough as anyone has. He was a winner."
- WAYNE HEMING