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The unnamed source attacking Brad Thorn through the media is a disgrace

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14th April, 2022
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Wayne Smith wrote an article in the Brisbane Times on 12 April titled “’I’d be honoured to coach the Wallabies’: Thorn puts hat in ring to succeed Rennie”.

In that article, an unnamed source – which given that Smith is an esteemed rugby writer is likely to be credible – said: “In the context of getting greater changes around high-performance coaching, Thorn has not been good to work with. He has not been a team player. A decision doesn’t have to be made now but he had better turn that around – and quickly.”

Smith goes on to list a number of players who have left the Reds as evidence of Thorn having the reputation of not being able to work with difficult players, due to the number of players who have left under his tenure.

Some of the players left due to pay issues that are not the coach’s responsibility and the Queensland Rugby Union was robustly supported by Rugby Australia in making that decision, while all but one other left because of off-field issues.

This was not directly attributed to the source but given that no other reasoning was given behind accusing Thorn of not being a team player on high performance, we can only conclude that this is the source’s major gripe.

This “highly placed” source – as Smith describes the person – is a disgrace.

Anonymous use of the media in this way to have a conversation that should be had face to face is gutless and counterproductive. And if it is said publicly, it should be on the record.

What anonymous attribution does is prevent the target from being able to effectively answer for himself, it protects the source from being subject to scrutiny and it raises questions about whether there are other agendas at play.


For example, one might ask the question as a result of this article whether the recent low number of selections from Australia’s highest performing Super Rugby team for the Wallabies squad was intended to apply pressure to Thorn to coach his team in a certain way.

Moreover, anonymous attacks are used to facilitate bullying, which has no place in Australian rugby, even if it is against a person who is as tough as Brad Thorn.

Reds coach Brad Thorn

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Nobody outside of the people in Australian rugby really knows what the issues are, but the fact is that Thorn is not employed by Rugby Australia, he is employed by the Queensland Rugby Union to keep the Queensland Reds winning and he is doing a damn good job of it.

It is also a fact that the big disasters within Australian rugby in the last decade have been facilitated by mass leaking to the media.

The events surrounding the departures of Ewen McKenzie and Raelene Castle are the prime examples, as was the exclusion of the Western Force.

They are events that have done untold brand damage to Rugby Australia, making the organisation look like it is run by a bunch of snotty private school bullies akin to Harry Flashman from Tom Brown’s School Days.


It is well past time for Rugby Australia to exercise internal information discipline and to stop the leaking. If the coaches are so frustrated with Thorn being his own man that they feel the need to raise it, they should do so publicly.

When doing so, however, they should note the words of the All Blacks’ World Cup-winning coach Graham Henry about the loss of Wallabies coach Dave Rennie to New Zealand Rugby, because he too had a reputation for being his own man: “New Zealand Rugby cocked that up”.

The message to Rugby Australia is that Brad Thorn might like to put his hat in the ring to be Wallabies coach when after Dave Rennie finishes his time with the Wallabies, hopefully after a long and successful tenure.

So might Stephen Larkham, Simon Cron, Darren Coleman and others, while the “highly placed unnamed source” might not even still be associated with Australian rugby by then.

Through that time Thorn will continue to churn out Australia’s best players at the Queensland Reds, though it is important to remember that he has plenty of coaching options.

Is a difference here and there, most likely about his selections, really worth losing that?

Therefore it would be best if Rugby Australia avoids cocking it up by allowing this disrespectful and underhanded approach to dealing with differences through leaks to continue.