Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

One More Trophy for an Overcrowded Cabinet

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

One More Trophy for an Overcrowded Cabinet

Article excerpt

When Leinster won the Heineken Cup last weekend, Brad Thorn became the first player to win a Rugby World Cup, a Super Rugby title and the Heineken Cup.

The joke making the rounds after Leinster won the Heineken Cup was that Brad Thorn was going to join the soccer club Chelsea next because he wanted to add the English Premier League and Champions League trophies to his pool room.

But first, the imposing New Zealand lock would have to check whether there is any room, given the trophy collection he has amassed in almost 20 years of playing professional rugby union and league.

Thorn, 37, became the oldest player ever to win a European Cup when Leinster won Saturday in Twickenham, England, and the first player to win a World Cup, a Super Rugby title and the Heineken Cup.

Thorn has won two Super Rugby titles, with the Crusaders in 2002 and 2008. Add to that list several Tri-Nations titles and Bledisloe Cup victories with the All Blacks, along with domestic success in New Zealand with his provincial side, Canterbury, and it seems whatever he touches turns to silver.

His success in rugby is all the more remarkable when you consider that those successes came after a stellar career in rugby league, which he started playing professionally as a teenager in 1994 with the Brisbane Broncos. He won tests with the Australia Kangaroos and four National Rugby League titles with the Broncos and enjoyed State of Origin victories with Queensland.

It is quite staggering what Thorn has achieved, particularly when his two chosen sports are brutally physical ones and the position he plays means he is right in the heart of the action.

A former Crusaders teammate, Tim Bateman, says Thorn's achievements will never be repeated.

"I don't think anyone would come even close to that," said Bateman, 24. "Just to win an N.R.L. title and Super Rugby title together are huge. There are players who play their whole careers and don't get a title.

"There are players who play their whole careers who don't even make the semifinals or finals. To have won all of that, it's a huge feat."

On the field, Thorn, who was born in Mosgiel on the South Island of New Zealand and moved to Queensland, Australia, as a young boy, is an uncompromising and intimidating figure.

He plays with a relentless intensity and thrives on the physical battle, where his work in the scrums and at the breakdown is fearsome.

The Crusaders forward pack has not delivered the same punch this year without him, and there is no doubt the All Blacks will be a different beast, too, when they face Ireland, Australia, Argentina and South Africa in the coming months without their familiar No. 4.

On a recent trip to South Africa, Bateman, who now plays for the Hurricanes Super Rugby franchise in New Zealand, said it had become clear just how revered Thorn was as an opponent. …

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