‘Army boot camps to cut my hair’: Tate pays tribute to Brad Thorn’s game-changing culture developed at the Reds

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Tate McDermott has paid tribute to the Queensland coach for his role in developing the Reds after Brad Thorn said it was time for a “break” after nearly three decades in professional sport.

The Reds booked a place in the quarter-finals of the table-topping leaders in a tight contest in Hamilton on Saturday afternoon.

The Reds led 20-19 after 61 minutes but a try from Pita Gus Sovacula sealed a 29-20 victory for the Chiefs.

A character-filled performance was the Reds’ best performance of the year as a Thorn side featuring several players fresh out of club rugby put a real burden on a loaded All Blacks Chiefs side.

Indeed, Jake Upfield had minutes left for the Reds as the Reds tried to run past Sam Can.

They failed, but lost not a single supporter along the way.

“It was a decent quarter-final,” Thorne said.

“Finals football is what you play for; It’s the first day of pre-season, so you’re training to race to go as far as he can. You see, today both teams came to the game.

“What I say to my boys is pride. I’m proud of the performance they showed and respect the bosses because they got the job done.”

Reds coach Brad Thorn with Tom Lynagh after their loss to the Chiefs at FMG Stadium Waikato on June 10, 2023 in Hamilton. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

A month after convincing the Chiefs to their only defeat of the season, the Reds’ heavy game plan and strong performance put Clayton McMillan’s side under severe pressure.

Although Tom Lynagh found his groove in the second half, the 20-year-old’s two missed conversions and a first-half penalty meant the Reds left the field seven points behind.

Conversely, Damian McKenzie’s excellent day in the kicking helped the Chiefs win over the line.

The Reds’ competitiveness was another example of how knock-out rugby can be important when executed well and combined with strong kick-chasing.

The nine-point loss marks the end of Thorne’s six-year spell at the Reds, with the dual international and former World Cup winner announcing his departure at the end of the season in April. The Reds hope to have a replacement decided by August.

“It’s been an honor (to be the coach),” Thorne said.

“I am proud to represent the state in this role. I grew up in Queensland, I’m from New Zealand, but I’ve been here since I was nine and it means a lot to me.

“Socializing with a lot of people. You’ve got things to win or lose over the years, and I’ve got to win a few things as a player, but it’s the people that play the main role. It’s not really the titles that win well, but it’s really the people.

“To all the staff, to all the people, to the players, it’s been great to be a part of this great game of footy and to see these young lads grow. I thank God for giving me this goal during this time, now it’s time for a little break, a little rest.”

Brad Thorn says he is proud of the Reds’ fightback against the Chiefs. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Thorne said the time was right to leave, but left the door open to continue his coaching career.

“I’ve been asked about it several times. I will take a break for three, four, five months,” he said.

“I’ve been naked for a long time. Even pre-coaching as a player. I have four children and I have been in this role for six years. There is pressure around him. I’ve always loved pressure, I’ve always loved a good job, but six years is a fair amount of time. It’s time to take a breath and think about my future.”

Awarded his first Super Rugby cap by Thorne, McDermott has been credited with bringing together a group of young players and changing the culture at the franchise.

“Not only myself, but a lot of the other boys owe Brad a lot for what he’s done for us,” he said.

“I have a lot of good memories from the military camps, which forced me to cut my hair. All these things. As Thorney says, it’s something you’ll remember.

“Thorney has been there for me every step of the way, even for a few 20-something boys before that, the academy and all that, so it’s going to be different.

“I hope that performance represented everything Torney has done for this club because we fought hard for him and unfortunately fell at the last hurdle.”

Tate McDermott of the Reds delivers the ball during the Super Rugby round 12 Pacific match between the Chiefs and the Queensland Reds at Yarrow Stadium on May 12, 2023 in New Plymouth, New Zealand.  (Photo by Andy Jackson/Getty Images)

Tate McDermott says Brad Thorn has changed the Reds’ culture. (Photo by Andy Jackson/Getty Images)

Despite losing Wallabies star Taniela Tupu and Test prop Luke Jones for the season, as well as missing several Test players for the quarter-finals including Liam Wright, Hunter Paisamy and Jordan Petaiah, the Reds appeared to be with their best players. Coming in on Saturday are newcomers Matt Fassler and Zane Nonggorr. And Sef Faagase had his best performance in Super Rugby.

McDermott said the fight and character shown by his young side will stand them in good stead going forward.

“Obviously there are young players on the podium, myself included, I’m 24 years old playing in a game like this,” McDermott said.

“The Chiefs are number one, they’ve got countless All Blacks, 100 cappers, we’re recruiting 19-20-year-old boys and they’re adding to it. Guys like Tommy Lynagh, Zane Nonggorr in the forward group, guys who haven’t played a lot of football, but this finals series and last year’s finals will be very important for them going forward. it’s for the club because as we continue to grow, it’s guys like this that we can rely on in the future.

“Honestly, guys like Penny Ravi, Matt Fessler, Sef, made an absolute difference. “To come into the shifter’s territory and go to the top five like in scrum time, in particular, that’s a big ask.”

Thorne said the Reds have created an inexcusable culture.

“There’s a lot of guys out there playing club rugby,” Thorne said.

“Tonight we had 11 players on permanent contracts. Your Jordan Petayas, Hunters, Taniela. No one talked about it around us. We don’t talk. We don’t make excuses. This is the endgame, so I’ll talk about it now. But you’re hearing it from other teams. But if you think about the guys who don’t play on our team. There are good batting players. There are some very good test players.

“Zane Nonggore is 21, Tom Lynagh is 20, he played 19 this year. Taj Annan from the reserves, I think he is still 19.

“We have guys who play club rugby. Our kicker, Matt Fassler, who was a club rugby player for five years until last year, came in and did a great job. So overall, proud of these guys.

“I never said anything about it. I had an old coach [veteran rugby league coach Wayne Bennett] In the 90s, they said, “Excuses are for losers.” This old guy is still going on in Brissey. Maybe it’s something that celebrates guys coming out and coming forward.”

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