Brad Thorn's milestone marks end of pain
Brad Thorn had been feeling the Highlanders' losing rut as much as anyone before Saturday night's 25-22 win over the Sharks.
After all, he has won NRL and State of Origin league titles, NPC and Super Rugby gongs, a Rugby World Cup and European honours.
In 450-odd first-class games across two codes, he has been on the winning team more than the losing.
So when the Highlanders started the season with eight straight losses, the Otago-raised Thorn was struggling a bit but not because of his own ambition.
"I've driven around the streets the last few weeks and I've seen the occasional guy with his Otago jersey or his Highlanders' jersey, or a kid, and I felt like stopping and saying thank you to them, you know, for hanging in there," Thorn said on Saturday night.
"For me, personally, I want them to be proud to pull on a Highlanders' jersey. I hope they enjoyed tonight.
"This time we got over the line."
Victory over the Sharks ended an 11-game losing streak going back to last season and marked Thorn's 100th game of Super Rugby, including the 92 caps he won with the Crusaders.
He led the Highlanders out on to Forsyth Barr Stadium and was presented with a greenstone mere by All Black coach Steve Hansen after the game.
"Probably people think I'm pretty staunch and maybe it doesn't mean much to me [but] it did mean a lot.
"I've only captained a few times, for the Broncos and here, so to run out first to acknowledge 100 games in front of my uncles and aunties, my wife and children, was pretty emotional for me," Thorn said.
"This is going to be a game that I really remember . . . it's an in-season game, and there's no reason to remember it really, but what's come before it and what's happened tonight made it something I'll always remember."
Thorn, who was the on-field leader late in the game against the Sharks after skipper Andrew Hore was replaced by Liam Coltman, was sin-binned in the closing minutes and had an agonising wait on the sidelines as the Sharks mounted a series of furious attacks.
Reaching the 100-game milestone was a moving moment for Thorn, especially doing so with the Highlanders.
"It's massive for me. I think it's because it's come back to here. I lived in Mosgiel 33 years ago; I didn't have any uncles or granddads who were All Blacks or anything like that," he said.
"I moved to another country, played a different game and somehow I'm here. I'm so proud of my time at the Broncos, so proud of my time at the Crusaders, they are in my blood, but this is personal, this is coming back to where I first picked up a ball and found the love for this game."
The Southland Times