Player of the Year
The Red Terror 2008 Player of the Year is Brad Thorn.
NZ Rugby Museum profile here.
The "tough as teak" hardman from Mosgiel who transplanted from New Zealand to Australia as a kid, represented his adopted nation in League, then returned to the land of his birthplace - twice!! - to fulfill his dream to play for the All Blacks, came back to rugby union as a huge surprise this season, and played the code better than ever.
Most thought the 33 year old's Use-By date had expired years ago. But when All Black lock Chris Jack chose the lucre of Europe, the incumbent position was vacant with candidates thin on the ground.
Thorn answered the call of Canterbury Crusaders coach Robbie Deans, came back to the Crusaders, formed a blistering partnership with Ali Williams, and won himself a Super 14 championship.
He was then slotted, virtually by acclamation, into Graham Henry's All Black pack, for the second term of his magnificent career. Thorn was tireless, committed and toiled hard for the whole season, providing the grunt in the engine room, stiffening resolve in defence (the All Blacks didn't concede a single try on the Grand Slam tour, and conceded only three points in their last six 2nd-halves), wearing down defences with his imposing ball-carries, and cleaning out rucks. He also received his fair share of line-out ball. This season, the gripes about the All Blacks lineout and scrummage were rarely heard, and Thorn's presence was a big part of it. Nobody talks about Thorn's lack of height any more.
Brad Thorn is no longer simply the best (and really, only) world-class forward to transplant from League to Union - he may also be the very best code-breaker ever, back-or-forward. Period.
Check the silverware in his trophy cabinet from this season alone: Super 14 title, Tri-Nations title, Bledisloe Cup, Hillary Shield. There's probably a few more I can't even remember, but his sides won the important ones, that's all you need to know, and Thorn was a huge contribution in every one.
Will Thorn retire after this season? I reckon at worst he could become an archetypal "bullpen" player, who rides the bench and comes on at the 60th minute to bring steel and leadership to his team. Whatever his decision, Brad Thorn is a Legend, and Brad Thorn is the Red Terror's 2008 Player of the Year.