If there’s one man who knows the ins and outs of code-swapping better than anyone, it’s Brad Thorn.
So new Queensland Reds signing Caleb Timu could ask for no better mentor than the dual-code warrior as he prepares for a potential Super Rugby debut in two weeks.
Former Australian schoolboys star Timu, 22, has been lured back to rugby from NRL club Brisbane Broncos after seeking an early release from his contract.
Once likened to a young Gorden Tallis, Timu signed for the Broncos straight out of high school but undertook a two-year Mormon mission in the South Pacific before returning to the club late last year.
But the 190cm, 112kg forward always intended to play rugby again at some point in his career, and will now do so under the watchful eye of Thorn and alongside his former schoolboy teammates Jake McIntyre, Samu Kerevi and Curtis Browning.
“I don’t mind guys with league backgrounds,” said Thorn, who has been appointed as the Reds’ senior assistant coach for the rest of the season.
“He’s an 80-minute league player, plays tough footy. We see him as a really good prospect.”
It’s understood the Reds would have included Timu in their squad for their two-week tour of South Africa had his signing been completed in time.
Instead the back-rower, who can play at No.6 or No.8, will likely figure in some capacity in their home clash against the Cheetahs on April 30.
Stuck behind a wealth of talent at the Broncos and resigned to playing in the Queensland Cup every week, Timu admitted being forced to regularly play rugby league on Sundays – a sacred day in the Mormon faith – was a factor in his decision.
The Reds don’t have another Sunday game for the rest of the season but Timu says he will play on that day in future if he has to.
“They’ve got a very good system there (at the Broncos), I enjoyed my time there,” Timu said.
“(But) it would have taken time to really play at the next level.
“It wasn’t a matter of being impatient because I knew it would take time, but when this opportunity came I couldn’t let it pass.”
Thorn expects Timu will make a quicker impact on the 15-man code than he did when he left the Broncos – once in 2001, and again seven years later – to make the switch.
“That’s evident in the work I’ve done with him. Straight away you can see there’s a general understanding of what’s going on,” Thorn said.
“For me, apart from what I watched on TV, I was really starting from the bottom. I played under-6s and under-8s, that’s all.
“And then at 25 I tried to play Super Rugby like that. It was hard going.
“I’d imagine there’ll be a lot quicker progression for Caleb.”