Brad Thorn's dream for Broncos-like Queensland Reds juggernaut

Rugby star mesmerizes again with another sensational throw (0:16)

Rugby star Quade Cooper shows off his throwing skills by tossing a football behind his back downfield to a receiver. (0:16)

Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn remains hopeful of securing some "pay" for his young band of rising stars, but just as important is his longer-term goal of turning the franchise into a sporting powerhouse in the same mould as the Brisbane Broncos or Crusaders.

Thorn's Reds were on the cusp of turning their season around when Super Rugby was suspended a month ago, the Queenslanders registering their second win - and easily best performance - of 2020 just hours after New Zealand announced it would be closing its border, effectively rendering any further play in the competition impossible.

Four points adrift of the playoff spots, the Reds were by no means competition frontrunners. But Thorn is adamant his side were approaching a "reward" not just for a tough stretch to start the season, but also the last two-and-a-half years of blood, sweat and tears.

"Seven games in, a round-the-world trip [done], I felt like we'd paid some dues, done the hard stuff early in this year's competition," Thorn said on the RedsRadio podcast. "The guys are just growing in confidence, just growing in their game and their belief; there was some real belief that came out of that Crusaders game.

"There was a reason why, out of seven games, there was five bonus points; we were in every game, we were competing with everyone, whether it was home or away ... so yeah it's a bit frustrating [the season's suspension] from a selfish point-of-view."

Had it not been for some terrible goal-kicking, the Reds would have walked away from Christchurch with a shock victory over the 10-time champion Crusaders in Round 6.

Their 45-17 victory over the Bulls a week later, in which they trailed 17-0 after 20 minutes, might just have been the catalyst for it all to come together.

But that comeback victory would not have eventuated had it not been for the leadership of 22-year-old skipper Liam Wright, so too the experience other young players have gained and which they are desperate to add to in the coming years.

"The rugby's important for these guys because it's more [games] under their belt," Thorn said of his young squad.

"You've got your guys like [captain] Liam Wright and [Angus] Scott-Young, in the mid-30s for games; guys like Lukhan [Salakaia-Loto] must be about 40+; Izack Rodda and Taniela [Tupou] 50+ ... they're starting to get a body of games under their belt and these games that were to come are important for our growth as well as trying to compete as well as trying to play finals footy."

Both Australia and New Zealand are investigating domestic competitions, which could supply a winner for a Super Rugby style finals series later in the year, as a way of restarting professional rugby, but any potential resumption is likely to be at least a month away.

The longer the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, the harder it will be for Super Rugby to cobble together a competition that gives some sort of ending to the seven rounds that had already been played.

Thorn admitted the suspension was proving taxing for both himself and his players, and insisted that if the uncertainty went on too long that it would be better to declare the competition over rather than continually delaying a potential return date.

"Yeah it is interesting; perhaps it's a little frustrating; a little weird and disappointing. I guess we'll see where it all gets to but at some stage it would be to have some closure if it's not going to go on because a heck of a lot has been put in and, now, you just don't know where it's going.

"So there needs to be at some stage either we know we're playing on and we're ripping in, or some sort of 'okay, this is done for a bit', and then we refresh ... and then be ready to build again for the next challenge."

The most likely scenario for a resumption of play within Australia seems to be through a domestic competition that would pit the Red, Brumbies, Waratahs and Rebels against each other with potentially the Western Force and even the Sunwolves also being included.

It would however depend on whether the state borders were opened - Queensland premier Anastasia Palaszczuk recently said she didn't want State of Origin rugby league to be played this year - while Rugby Australia and the Rugby Union Players Association are still to reach an agreement on player salary cuts that will help ease the financial pressure on the game in Australia.

Whether or not the Reds return in a month or not at all, there is no doubting Thorn's emotional investment in what he is trying to achieve in Queensland. And given his exposure to both the Broncos and Crusaders - whom he represented at the height of their success - his motivation to achieve something similar with the Reds should come as no surprise.

"For me, in 10 to 20 years, whatever, it would be cool to see long-term strength in Queensland rugby and it doesn't matter who comes in as a coach or players that just come through the factory -- that's what I call the academy, the factory.

"I just want a factory; like at the Broncos; just like at the Crusaders. Queensland, we produce players; they love their state, they're tight and the factory just produces them.

"They're fine young men and that's the other side of it ... that you're impacting on them as men. Hopefully they're men of character that are contributing to society, their families, whatever they're doing post rugby as well."