Brad Thorn.
Brad Thorn.

I feel a responsibility: Thorn

A SON of flood-ravaged Queensland and quake-hit Christchurch, Brad Thorn's last game of Super rugby could hardly mean more to him.

He's even abandoned the stock-in-trade rugby cliche of it's just another game.

"In the past when I've played grand finals it's been about the team and myself. It's a great achievement. But this one ... it's been a big few months back there. I feel a responsibility. There's more to this game."

While the Crusaders have been careful to dial down the emotion ahead of tomorrow's Super 15 final at Suncorp Stadium, it is futile to try to look at this game without the backdrop of the natural disaster that struck the regions these teams represent.

In January, torrential rain and flash flooding left a trail of disaster in Queensland. Thorn was in the Sunshine State for that, just as he has been back home in Christchurch for the devastating earthquake and its myriad aftershocks.

"It's psychological warfare from Mother Nature," Thorn said. "It's 4am in the morning and 'bang'. Your house is moving. You look outside, the trees are moving, poles are moving. People lost lives in February and the city got hammered, but it's ongoing.

It's not much fun.

"I'm very mindful of the people back home in Christchurch and Canterbury and I know this [title] would be very special. I imagine it would have a great impact on the people back there, so the responsibility is on my mind as well.

"I'm conscious of Queensland as well. The two areas have been through tough times so it's kind of special that two teams representing those areas are playing."

While Thorn was happy to talk about the wider implications of the game, he said it was not something that was often discussed in the team environment, especially not in the past couple of weeks.

"If you think about that stuff too much it can weigh quite heavily on you and it can affect your performance.

"We don't need to talk about it too much because we're living it. Instead we try to enjoy each other's company and strive for excellence."

That's something the Crusaders achieved last week against the Stormers. It's also something Thorn has achieved over 18 years in the two rugby codes. He's never lacked desire.

The 50-test All Black remembers playing his first senior grand final for Wests Panthers in the Queensland Cup. Their colours were red and black. It was 1993 and he was more raw than rare steak.

"We beat Easts. I was 18, I'm 36 now and I would not have dreamed this. Rugby was not even professional."

As for the fact that it's his last game in a Crusaders jersey, whether it's red and black or grey and red, Thorn is not really too fussed about this. He's said his goodbyes once or twice before.

"I keep having last games," he said. "People are probably sick of me coming back or switching codes, or whatever.

"For me it's just about playing a grand final. I just love playing grand finals. To me it's what you play, why you start your pre-season way back in November.

"Wayne Bennett always said the hardest thing was getting to a grand final; once you're there whatever will happen, will happen."

Which seems an almost fatalistic way of looking at things. As a committed Christian, perhaps with everything Thorn's witnessed this year, he finds it easier to consign the last 80 minutes of his Crusaders career to fate.

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