Ex-Reds trio have Thorn to thank: Martin

Three former exiled Reds players have a lot to thank Brad Thorn for, says ex-Wallaby Greg Martin.
Three former exiled Reds players have a lot to thank Brad Thorn for, says ex-Wallaby Greg Martin.

He won't be the one to benefit but former Wallaby Greg Martin believes Queensland coach Brad Thorn is the man that banished trio Quade Cooper, James Slipper and Karmichael Hunt should be thanking after they rekindled their Super Rugby careers with rival clubs.

All three impressed on the weekend in debuts for the Rebels, Brumbies and Waratahs respectively, after they were deemed excess goods at Ballymore in 2018.

Cooper was never picked by Thorn, on form, while Hunt and Slipper were overlooked once implicated in separate drug-related incidents.

But with new homes in 2019 all three could force themselves back into the Wallabies fray as Michael Cheika canvasses his options in a World Cup year.

Queensland are still propping up a portion of the trio's contracts this season, but Brisbane-based Martin says there should be no regrets at Ballymore.

"Thorn set his course; made them sit there, think about things and learn some humility," the player-turned-commentator told AAP.

"They've been publicly embarrassed and humiliated instead of cruising through another year doing who knows what.

"He had to do it and it's revived their careers."

Cooper's direct play at No.10, Slipper's 86 Test caps and Hunt's defensive grunt in the midfield could all be handy for Cheika's side in Japan this year.

Martin said that form had only arrived after Thorn's decision to overlook them last year.

"Boxing helped Quade when he was in a rut last time and Thorn's done it again," Martin said.

"He's given Cooper's career a bit of ginger and it hasn't helped him (at the Reds), but it could really help Australian rugby in the long-term."

A first-round bye for the Reds means the jury is still out on whether they have emerged unscathed from the break-up.

Thorn's men face the Highlanders in New Zealand on Friday, where Martin says that last year's lowest-ranked Australian side "need to offer hope".

"There's a lot riding on it; they need a big crowd (for their first home game against the Crusaders on March 2) and close losses won't do it," he said.

"It looks like they've got their defence in order but they need points too."

Australian Associated Press