Legends explain: Reasons why Thorn axed Quade
QUADE Cooper's defensive deficiencies and a desire to mould a team in his own image were the major drivers for Brad Thorn's bombshell decision to cut the star playmaker loose from the Reds.
That's the opinion of Queensland greats Greg Martin and Tim Horan, who shared their Ballymore insight with foxsports.com.au following the news that five-eighth Cooper and halfback Nick Frisby were not in rookie coach Thorn's plans for the 2018 Super Rugby season.
Martin, the former Queensland and Wallabies fullback, had been a huge admirer of Cooper in his free spirit pomp.
But the reality was that injuries had severely affected Cooper's speed and while his skill level remained high, his defensive limitations meant it wasn't worth the trade-off in Thorn's eyes.
"When Brad Thorn got the job, that was one of the first thoughts I had - Quade's not really his type of guy," Martin said.
"Brad Thorn doesn't like people hiding in defence, for starters.
"He's been fabulous, I loved him at his peak but like Stephen Moore, like James Horwill, when you lose your foot speed, you're gone."
Thorn, the dual code legend, achieved cult status for his incredible toughness, longevity and training and weightroom deeds.
The 42-year-old Rugby World Cup winner has been fast-tracked into the Reds top job following another miserable season under Nick Stiles and Thorn has already made his coaching mark by taking wooden spooners Queensland Country to this year's National Rugby Championship title.
That Country team produced dramatically improved defensive performances under Thorn and Horan, a two-time World Cup winner, believed that simple template wouldn't change at the higher level.
"Brad Thorn's got a pretty basic style - it's dynamic and fast-paced but very much a defensive-orientated style," Horan said.
"So I would say he'd want people defending in their positions, as it then sets the standard for everyone else and you don't have to move players around.
"It's certainly a brave call from Brad and time will tell whether it's the right one.
"But you've got to back the coach and he's got to be confident with the players he has around him and the style of game that he wants to play."
With Cooper's future now appearing to lie overseas, Thorn will entrust youngsters Hamish Stewart and Duncan Paia'aua with playmaking duties next season.
Stewart, at five-eighth, and Paia'aua, at inside centre, were also the Country shot-callers under Thorn and will be able to execute his gameplan more effectively, Martin argues.
"I don't think they're as good as Quade at the moment, but they play like a Brad Thorn," Martin said.
"They're both awesome defenders and they take the ball to the line.
"And Karmichael Hunt will do a lot of the talking outside them - he's a great talker.
"I would say the defence part of it was the biggest aspect and I think Brad wanted to make sure it was his stamp put on the team, not Quade's.
"Quade developed a bit of a reputation up here that it had to be his way."
Martin said the reaction to the decision in the Brisbane rugby community was largely one of acceptance and there was real hope that Thorn's winning attitude would immediately rub off on his players.
"Every person I've spoken to is so excited by the Brad Thorn factor," Martin said.
"There won't be any laziness and there won't be any bad attitude.
"The bloke's a winner so people think he'll transfer it.
"He had success with the Country team - he dragged them from last to first by using young blokes.
"Enthusiasm is an amazing thing."
Horan, meanwhile, hoped that 19-year-old Stewart wasn't rushed into the Super Rugby furnace before he was ready.
He believed that Thorn was playing the long game with his decisions and fans hankering for a return to the 2011 glory days needed to be patient.
"While Quade has been a great ambassador and the kids love him, the Reds haven't been winning games for the last four or five years," Horan said.
"So while quick results would be nice, this is going to be a pretty young team with a lot of Australian under-20 and Country NRC players in there.
"Super Rugby is a massive step up.
"But Duncan and Hamish have got potential.
"Quade should be very proud of what he's achieved - to win a Super Rugby title is a very, very hard thing to do.
"He can be proud of his achievements here and move onto other options.
"He's still got another three or four years of rugby in him."
Another Wallabies great and former teammate of Cooper, Drew Mitchell, meanwhile expressed surprise on Twitter that two experienced players were being allowed to explore overseas options.
Mitchell also called for the Reds to offer more clarity around their decision.