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Not just another final for Thorn

Jim Morton 07/07/2011 04:08:23 PM Comments (0)

Brad Thorn will play his last game for the Crusaders on Saturday night and he believes it will the most important of his extraordinary 17-year career.

Not because it is his Super Rugby swansong or a final triumph over the Queensland Reds could deliver his team an eighth title in 16 seasons.

It's because he's representing a region which has been suffering for six months, and there's a responsibility to boost their morale in the wake of February's Christchurch earthquake.

Thorn is as tough as they come. In 17 seasons at the top level of both rugby codes, the former Brisbane Bronco and current All Black has never been sidelined by a serious injury.

But reliving the plight of his current home town, as well as the suffering seen in his original home during Queensland's floods, rubbed his raw emotions on Thursday.

The 36-year-old forward fought back tears as he spoke about the huge sense of pride the Crusaders feel about delivering a cherished title for the people of Canterbury.

Thorn was staying in Brisbane when the Queensland floods hit in January and was back in Christchurch a month later when the devastating quake struck.

He summed it up as "special the two teams representing those areas are playing" at a packed-out Suncorp Stadium.

"For me, this game is pretty darn important," the dual international said. "It's been a big few months back there and I feel a responsibility, and there's more to this game.

"I've got to win a Super Rugby final before, it's cool. It's hard for me to get across what I'm saying but this is something for the people back there, and maybe the Reds feel the same way for Queensland people as well."

But Thorn is wary the seven-time champions can't afford to allow the emotion and motivation of the situation to creep in against the Reds.

"You have to let that go to concentrate on your job," he said. "If you concentrate too much on that stuff, it can be quite heavy on you and affect your performance.

"You've got to be careful not to let it drown you."

He said the adversity and 100,000-plus kilometres of travel, brought about by the lack of a home ground, had brought the Crusaders players and coaches together closer.

They don't need to talk about the hardship.

"We've been living it," the 50-Test lock said.

"The aftershocks - it's psychological warfare from mother nature."

But they haven't complained once as they've travelled to almost all major centres around New Zealand, plus Brisbane (twice), Perth, South Africa (twice) and London this season while their families stayed at home.

The stress is set to see star centre Sonny Bill Williams move to play with the Chiefs next season to be closer to his mother.

"The feedback we're getting is the people are getting a real boost out of our performances," Thorn said.

"I think the people back home are enjoying it and are really proud of us and we're proud of them.

"I just feel so proud of the people back there, just like the Queenslanders who came out to help (during the floods). That was so cool to see.

"That's a massive positive that's come out of tough times."

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