Highlanders happy to have Thorn in its side

HE'S BACK: Brad Thorn is New Zealand preparing for his latest stint in Super Rugby, this time with the Highlanders.
HE'S BACK: Brad Thorn is New Zealand preparing for his latest stint in Super Rugby, this time with the Highlanders.

The gravelly voice coming down the phone is unmistakable. Brad Thorn has arrived.

One of the Highlanders' major off-season signings, the nomadic, World Cup-winning All Black joined his new team-mates in Central Otago on Friday and has been settling into Dunedin this week.

With four children aged from 3 to 9 in the Thorn family, there has been a long list of logistics to tick off, along with Dad starting his new job and the kids starting school next week.

"We've been pretty busy during the day so we are still getting the family organised. It's nice to be back here," Thorn, who was raised in Dunedin and central Otago before his family shifted to Brisbane when he was 9, said.

Thorn said he had no expectations arriving at Dunedin Stadium for the start of life as a Highlander. "I wasn't sure what to expect, to be honest. I've been overseas just doing my thing, but they seem professional and there's a lot of good guys here."

Thorn's sporting CV is well-known, but still worthwhile rehashing.

If the code-swapping behemoth was not walking around Dunedin in the flesh at the moment, even Lee Childs would have struggled to make him up.

Since making his debut for the Brisbane Broncos in the 12th round of the 1994 Winfield Cup, the 37-year-old's rugby league career has included a Super League title in 1997 and three NRL titles (1998, 2000, 2006), not to mention State of Origin appearances (14) with Queensland and eight tests for Australia.

After switching to rugby in 2001 he won NPC titles with Canterbury (2001, 2004) and a Super 14 title with the Crusaders in 2008.

Setting aside Bledisloe Cup victories and Tri-Nations tournament wins, Thorn was a key member of the All Blacks' World Cup campaign in 2011, before heading to Japan, with a wee hook over to Leinster to help them win the Heineken Cup.

Teams with Thorn in them win. The link is not coincidental.

On the same day that 35-year-old Ryan Nelsen looked to end his football-playing career in the English Premier League before jumping straight into the coach's box, Thorn said rugby management was not something he would rule out.

"I did a little bit of coaching when I was up in Japan and I did a little bit of strength training as well. It could be something that I look at, but I'm not too sure.

"I'm open to a lot of stuff, really. I did a few papers towards high school PE teaching a few years back as well, we'll see what happens."

The idea of Mr Thorn, school teacher, could be enough to end child obesity in this country in one swoop.

Thorn's future, however, could include a return to European rugby, something he enjoyed during his cameo with Leinster.

"Europe really suits my style. It's tight, it's physical, tighthead locks are really appreciated over there," he said.

"As a guy whose played for the Broncos and Crusaders, it's appealing because everyone has done their OE and it's a chance for me and my family to experience some different stuff.

"We'll have to see, because it might be it this year."

The Highlanders will name a team tomorrow for their first pre-season game on Saturday, against the Chiefs in Taupo.

The Southland Times