Brad Thorn will take stock before recommitting to the Queensland Reds after his exciting young side fell painfully short in a tense Super Rugby AU final on Saturday night.
The Reds overcame the odds to push the Brumbies to the limit before succumbing 28-23 in a frenetic finish in Canberra, having trailed by 15 points midway through the second half.
Undone by ill-discipline and having been reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes following the sin-binning of winger Filipo Daugunu for a lifting tackle early in the second half, the Reds looked gone having already lost freakish young winger Jordan Petaia and forward enforcer Lukhan Salakai-Loto to injuries.
“But the guys showed what they’ve showed all the way along, which is their ticker and resilience,” Thorn said after a contentious try to Reds lock Angus Blyth in the 64th minute set up a grandstand finish at GIO Stadium.
“Their determination to get back into the game, it was pretty close in the end, wasn’t it?
“But, at the end of the day, it’s not much fun losing grand finals, is it?”
“We came down here to get a job done and came close but didn’t get there.”
Still, the Reds have come a long way since Thorn took over before the 2018 season and, intent on presiding over a cultural overhaul, rebuilt the team with old-fashioned hard work and some controversial rostering calls.
The dual international, Rugby World Cup winner, NRL and State of Origin premiership hero was widely condemned for cutting enigmatic playmaker Quade Cooper loose and also letting Karmichael Hunt and James Slipper leave for disciplinary reasons.
But Thorn’s hard-nosed decisions are finally starting to pay dividends, with the Reds emerging as one of the most exciting teams in Super Rugby.
Led maturely by flanker Liam Wright, the Reds boast a world-class forward pack also featuring Super Rugby AU MVP Taniela Tupou and future Wallabies back-rowers Harry Wilson and Fraser McReight.
Thorn’s lifeline to James O’Connor has led to the rebirth of the one-time wild child of Australian rugby, while several other backs are in the sights of first-year Wallabies coach Dave Rennie.
But asked if he was sticking around for another year to continue the rebuild, Thorn was coy.
“I’ve just been worrying about this at the moment,” he said.
“But now that this has come to an end, I’m sure there’ll be chats and what-not going around there.
“But it’s not really something to talk about now, mate. We’ve just come from a pretty big game.”
– Darren Walton
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