Brad Thorn is confident his playing return at the ripe old age of 41 won’t hamper the progression of his younger teammates in the National Rugby Championship.
Thorn, a former dual-code international and World Cup winner with the All Blacks, is set to resume his playing career for Queensland Country in this year’s NRC while also serving as assistant coach.
In truth, the move comes as little surprise – ever since Thorn joined the Queensland Reds as a development coach late last year, there have been persistent rumours he would eventually pull on the boots once again.
That never ended up happening, but a roster reshuffle triggered by an injury to Brisbane City’s Cadeyrn Neville led to a sudden demand at Ballymore for an extra second-rower, providing Thorn with the opportunity he has been waiting for.
Just don’t call it a comeback.
“I haven’t made a comeback. I always said I’m just playing less now,” Thorn said.
“I was keen to give them a different type of coaching, maybe side-by-side.
“I don’t feel I’m blocking anyone, and I won’t.
“I can’t see me playing every game, I don’t know what sort of minutes I’ll do.
“I don’t need any big attention about it, I just wanted to quietly play a few games. We’ll see how it goes.”
Thorn retired from professional rugby in May last year, bringing to a close a storied two-decade, two-sport, two-nation career, the likes of which probably won’t be seen again.
Not that his personal fitness routines have changed much.
“I’ve never stopped training. The only difference in my life from the last 20 years is I just wasn’t playing Saturday,” he said.
New Queensland Country coach Toutai Kefu, the former Reds and Wallabies No.8, is only one year older than Thorn.
“I get a bit embarrassed standing next to him sometimes,” Kefu said.
“He wants to play. I was actually trying to talk him out (of it).
“He’s keen. I think as a player on the field and as a coach, he can lead by example.”
The NRC kicks off its third season on August 27.