When a 19-year-old Brad Thorn lost his father he found solace in a return to his rugby club. Now the Queensland Reds coach has found himself giving that same advice to Jordan Petaia.

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A try-scorer on his Wallabies debut at last year’s World Cup, the grieving youngster will return to Super Rugby AU action this Saturday against the Melbourne Rebels after the death of the 20-year-old’s father last week.

Petaia was a late scratching from what was a heavy Reds loss to the NSW Waratahs last Saturday but Thorn said the young star’s return to Ballymore this week had given everyone a boost.

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Reds coach Brad Thorn looks ahead to the weekend’s action in Australia

“I had a chat to him (about playing), had the exact same thing happen to me, the same situation,” Thorn said. “I was 19 and the same for me, I was at the Broncos at the time and training was good for me and really enjoyed being around the guys.

“It was a tough weekend; a tough time for Jordy, for a lot of us I guess. Those situations can be tough for a while, losing someone like that, but we’re happy to have him involved, good for Jordy, good for the team.”

With three games to play before finals, the Reds and Waratahs are equal third, three points behind the Rebels and seven behind the Brumbies.

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The Rebels could finish the weekend in top spot but the Reds will be keen to bounce back after their off night in Sydney.

“On the weekend there was a bit going on, you have got to turn up ready to play,” Thorn said. “They were quiet… the boys weren’t in that space clearly and the Waratahs were fizzing.”

The coach has reverted to in-form Tate McDermott at the scrum base, while Fraser McReight will start at openside flanker in a back row with Liam Wright shifted to No6 and Harry Wilson at No8.

Prop Jack Straker will replace Dane Zander (knee, out for season) in the starting side with Tongan-born New Zealand-raised Jethro Felemi on the bench for a possible debut.

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The sides played out an 18-18 draw in their most recent meeting with the Reds aiming to snap a two-game losing streak.

Queensland Reds: Jock Campbell; Jordan Petaia, Hunter Paisami, Hamish Stewart, Filipo Dauguna; James O’Connor, Tate McDermott; Harry Wilson, Fraser McReight, Liam Wright, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Angus Blyth, Taniela Tupou, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Jack Straker. Reserves: Alex Mafi, Jethro Felemi, Zane Nonggorr, Tuaina Taii Tualima, Angus Scott-Young, Scott Malolua, Bryce Hegarty, Josh Flook.

Melbourne Rebels: Reece Hodge; Andrew Kellaway, Campbell Magnay, Matt To’omua, Marika Koroibete; Andrew Deegan, Frank Lomani; Isi Naisarani, Brad Wilkin, Josh Kemeny, Trevor Hosea, Matt Philip, Pone Fa’amausili, Jordan Uelese, Cameron Orr. Reserves: Efitusi Maafu, Cabous Eloff, Charles Abel, Esei Ha’angana, Michael Wells, Richard Hardwick, James Tuttle, Billy Meakes.

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