Brad Thorn's career the stuff of movies
Petero Civoniceva reckons they'll probably make a movie about Brad Thorn's remarkable footy career when he finally hangs up his boots.
The opening scene might show an eight-year-old Kiwi kid running through the hilly Albany Creek bush track down the road from his parents' house in north Brisbane.
The kid of course would be a young Thorn, a determined lad from Mosgiel with a passion for sport and a dream of one day representing the All Blacks.
Civoniciva is one of the few people to fully understand the magnitude of what Thorn has achieved in the decades leading up to tomorrow night's Rugby World Cup final at Eden Park.
The pair spent nearly decade in the trenches at the Brisbane Broncos and became best of mates, but even as they forged out careers with Queensland and the Kangaroos, Thorn's boyhood dream burned away in the background.
"I remember when I played with Brad for the Broncos we'd often talk about what an amazing feeling it would be to pull on that All Black jersey," Civoniceva said yesterday.
"Even those early days [in Brisbane] I think it was something he thought about. He was immensely proud of his Kiwi heritage and although he played for Australia and Queensland in league the belief in being a New Zealander was always something he said was very special to him.
"It was quite funny because he grew up a lot of his life in Brisbane, but the roots of his heritage were always in tact.
"For him the All Blacks was always very much a goal, but who'd think he'd actually go on to have the career he's had?"
Thorn played 200 NRL matches in two stints with the Broncos, 14 for Queensland and eight tests for Australia and clocked up 92 caps for the Crusaders, 31 for Canterbury and has played 59 tests for the All Blacks.
People in Brisbane and Australia were just as in awe of what Thorn had achieved as a New Zealander, Civoniceva said.
"It's an unbelievable career and to this day I still get blown away when I see him out there running on for the All Blacks.
"His memory definitely hasn't faded over here. It's very much the case [that he's a legend]. People held him in such high regard in his rugby league days, but everyone has marveled at what he's done in union.
"Just to go to rugby union was a huge challenge in itself, but to then play for the No 1 team in the world and to have the longevity that he's had wearing the All Black jersey. It's the stuff of movies."
Civoniciva said he got an early insight into his teammate's legendary work ethic shortly after joining the Broncos in 1998 and getting a place in the same suburb where Thorn grew up.
"It was in Albany Creek on the north side of Brisbane near his parents place and it had a really great running track, a bush track that Brad would run that every week regardless of what else was on and he did that from a really young age.
"He used to tell me that was his thing that kept him on top of his game. I'm sure there's a track he's carved out around Christchurch that will be special to him. He probably wouldn't tell anyone, but that'll be his run.
"It was a very hilly run, he loved the hills and he always used to tell me it was part of his mountain man heritage.
"He has always been the guy who just loved to train He was always doing extra work and that's another thing that's made him so good, doing things that other guys weren't prepared to do."
But Civoniceva says fitness is not Thorn's greatest strength. That, he says, comes from deeper within.
"He's a true competitor in no matter what he turns his hand to. He'll always give his best and that was what I loved most about playing footy with him, that winning attitude that he brought to the team.
"If you talk to any player or coach who worked with him in league, they'd all say the same thing, he's just a winner. That's what makes him tick. It's a trait you can't coach. It's something that comes from within and it's a huge part of Brad's make up.
"He's nearly at the finish line and it's going to be awesome to watch."