Thu 1 Feb 2018 | 10:41

WATCH: Thorn not scared to make 'tough calls'

Reds coach Brad Thorn and new captain Scott Higginbotham
Thu 1 Feb 2018 | 10:41

WATCH: Thorn not scared to make 'tough calls'

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Having replaced Nick Stiles (who coached the Reds for the past two years), Thorn has already made a few interesting calls and said he is not afraid to continue making "tough calls".

That includes a new captain and axing mercurial Wallaby Quade Cooper.

He is determined to turn around the fortunes of a rabble Reds team that has not finished higher than 14th in the last four seasons.

"There's been a few tough ones [decisions]," he said, after naming Wallaby veteran Scott Higginbotham (31) as his captain.

Thorn – who has a host of national and international titles as a player, including World Cup, Super Rugby and European Cup triumphs, – said Higginbotham was a player who would galvanise the group through his actions.

"It feels like the right fit," he told a media briefing in Brisbane, when asked why he decided to change the captaincy.

"It is [about] turning over a new leaf.

"The Reds, in the last four years, played 62 games and won just 16,"he said, adding: "This place needed to have some changes.

"That [changing the captaincy] is a positive one."

he described the new captain as "the right man" for the job.

"Sometimes change is good. You can keep doing the same thing and be happy where you are, or you can do something about it.

"We have a good guy there to lead the team."

He also spoke about dealing with a number of issues in the off-season – including Karmichael Hunt (arrested for cocaine possession), George Smith (arrested in Japan for not paying a taxi fare) and Quade Cooper (declare surplus to requirements).

He described his task at the Reds as "a bit of a fixer-upper".

"There is a part of me that embraces that [trouble]," Thorn said, adding: "I like the fight.

"Some things have happened in the off-season, but part of me says: 'Good, bring it on'.

"I want this franchise to be up for the fight."

Thorn said it was also a 'tough' decision to axe Cooper.

The Wallabies flyhalf was told late last year by Thorn that his services would not be required for the 2018 season.

Cooper still has two years left on his Reds contract, but has not been training with the squad since then.

"He is still in the squad, but he is not with us,"Thorn said, adding that it is "just a change of direction".

"I thought Quade, last year, [and] the team struggled. His game management, his attack, his defence [struggled].

" I wanted to have a change in terms of where we are going.

"I'm in this role [as head coach] and sometimes you've got to make tough decisions."

The Reds coach said that Cooper is free to search for employment elsewhere.

"[It's] the least we could do," Thorn said when asked if Cooper was free to pursue other opportunities.

"He's played over 100 games for this club – he's had success here.

"He's a guy who's served this club really well. Respect to the guy, but we're just going in a different way."

Thorn, said he felt Cooper, who has also been discarded by the Wallabies, had struggled last year after he returned after just one season in Europe.

While Cooper was still contracted to the Reds he would play club rugby in Brisbane and Thorn said there was a slim chance he could still be called into the Reds if there was an injury crisis.

"We're doing what we're doing now. But he's part of the squad," Thorn said as he prepared the team for their season opener against the Melbourne Rebels on February 23.

"He'll be trying his best with his club rugby and it's a tough old season, isn't it? At the moment, we've got some depth around that position – Hamish Stewart coming through, Jono Lance, Ben Lucas can play there.

"It's competitive, which is what I'm getting a little bit excited about. I'm liking the competition in most positions and I feel like maybe that hasn't been here."

 

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