Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Open mind on Europe

Brad Thorn hasn't ruled out another season playing on the other side of the world.

Brad Thorn could yet set a lasting benchmark for a lock at the highest club level.  Photo / Otago Daily Times
Brad Thorn could yet set a lasting benchmark for a lock at the highest club level. Photo / Otago Daily Times

He is turning - wait for it - 38 on Sunday but while Brad Thorn is finally showing signs of slowing down, he hasn't closed the door on seeing out his remarkable career in Europe after his stint with the Highlanders.

Thorn's first act with his new Super Rugby team was to head into the Greenstone Valley on a 25km tramp west of Queenstown at the weekend.

For former All Black Thorn, moving back to the deep south after his two years at the Fukuoka Sanix Blues in Japan and his successful careers with the Crusaders and Brisbane Broncos feels like a homecoming - he was born in Mosgiel - but there is still a sense of unfinished business in his sporting career.

"It's going to challenge me," he told the Otago Daily Times. "How my body holds up. Testing myself, have I still got it? Can I still mix it?"

"For me, in the job that I do, it's different to other jobs. The end could be next week if I got injured or something, so you don't know.

I will know when I'm close to the end, and I'm probably as close as I've been.

"I'll take the season, I'll see how I go. There's a part of me that wouldn't mind going back to Europe for a season or two. We will see what happens."

His decision to take things season by season is sensible given his more than 20 years playing professional league and rugby. But if he did decide to continue playing in Europe, and he is bound to attract interest given the impact he made at Irish club Leinster last year during his loan from Fukuoka (he helped win the Heineken Cup), just when will it all end? Could he still be playing at 40, setting surely a lasting benchmark for a lock at the highest club level?

Thorn rarely gets injured and he is so good at his core roles - pushing in scrums, clearing bodies from rucks, jumping and lifting in lineouts - that he doesn't need to do any of the flashy stuff.

Thorn's work ethic and professionalism are well documented. The way he prepares for trainings and matches, and the impact he makes in them, means he can't help but be popular with his teammates and coaches. And he takes pride in giving his all on the field.

His sense of humour isn't as well known. But a story did the rounds a while back about how an Ireland test loose forward at Leinster met his match in Thorn only two weeks after the big man's arrival in Dublin.

The No 8 was in the midst of handing out more orders when Thorn replied: "Save the energy for the scrum, mate. I can't even feel any weight from you. Less talk, more pushing, mate!"

- APNZ

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