Australia v New Zealand, Tri-Nations, Melbourne, July 31
Thorn fears final fulltime whistle
July 29, 2010
All Blacks lock Brad Thorn reflects on a game, New Zealand v South Africa, Tri-Nations, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand, July 17, 2010
Wallabies flanker David Pocock continues to attract plaudits © Getty Images

All Blacks veteran Brad Thorn has revealed a rare vulnerability ahead of his 42nd cap against the Wallabies in Melbourne.

His medical records suggest he is practically indestructible, but there is one lingering Achilles heel for the 35-year-old - the psychological adjustment to life after professional rugby.

A fulltime sportsman since joining the Brisbane Broncos National Rugby League (NRL) club as a junior in 1994, Thorn admits the prospect of retirement is weighing heavily on his broad shoulders. "It's quite daunting for me, post footy, " he said. "I've been doing it since I was six years old. I just love it but obviously I'm going to do something else, it's going to be interesting. This is what I do, what I've always done."

Thorn had his first inkling about the predicament he would face after that final fulltime whistle once he slogged through the 2004 NPC campaign with Canterbury. The previous year's World Cup was not the career highlight he and New Zealand had anticipated and when the new coaching regime took control the hulking forward did not initially figure in Graham Henry's plans.

Mooching around in Christchurch, Thorn was not in a good place. "I felt, I have to be careful of the words I use, a little bit depressed because I spent my all life wanting to be an All Black and it was done, I was on the other side of my life. I felt a bit flat for a couple of months. I just stayed in New Zealand organising the house before going back to Australia."

The Broncos offered to reconvert him to the NRL, an opportunity that provided if not a new lease of life, then at least an extension. "I was lucky I had an extra challenge. It stimulated me again, maybe that's the key -- having a challenge when all this stuff finishes so I can put my energies into something else."

For now, Thorn is determined to persevere with the only lifestyle he knows -- the endless cycle of training, playing and rehab until next year's World Cup. "I'd really love to play next year, it's a big one, I want to give it a heck of a whack. For me, playing for the All Blacks is Christmas Day every week."

The 13 and now 15-man game has become so all encompassing that Thorn would not rule out moving offshore in 2012, taking Mary-Ann and the four kids to Europe or Japan as he earns his pension. Then, unsurprisingly for such a dedicated trainer, Thorn is working on qualifying as a physical education teacher.

"I've done a couple of papers, just started," he said. It looks like a logical fit because Thorn has certainly mastered the art of developing and maintaining his physique.

"I did a lot of hard work from a young age doing my weights so I've strengthened by body and muscles. Stretching is really big,"' he said. "As you get older your body sets as a man and it's in a good place. I just wonder if young guys come into footy and get injuries that trouble them as their careers go on because their body's out of balance."

Quizzed on his worst injuries over a 16-year career spanning 200 NRL games, State of Origin for Queensland and Tests for the Kangaroos and All Blacks, Thorn doesn't hesitate.

"I had a (arthro)scope on my left knee back in 1998, that's my one op. It kept me out for about three weeks."


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