Thorn, a Queensland State of Origin representative on 11 occasions, was asked what he thought about NSW getting Gallen in for a pep talk.
“I guess that was surprising because I didn’t know [with] bubbles [that] people were supposed to come in,” Thorn said. “Don’t know about that. The game means a lot to both sides. They’re preparing as best they can and they’ll be excited to play rugby.”
The response prompted a chuckle from Wright, who said Queensland had their own obvious source of motivation.
“He’s our Paul Gallen,” Wright said of Thorn. “He doesn’t need to pump it up too much. We’re Queenslanders and Queensland want to smash NSW. It’s just in the water up here. We can’t wait.
“There’s only so much you want to smash your mates [at training]. You want to smash the opposition. There’s a huge passion between the states … and in past games it’s a bloodbath and we want to really do a number on them. Once you pull on that Queensland jersey, anyone with that sky blue jersey becomes an enemy.”
The passion is unmistakable on both sides of the Tweed River as the Reds aim to snap an 11-game losing streak against the Waratahs.
Queensland will go into the match as heavy favourites, with the Waratahs potentially fielding five debutants, including Joey Walton at inside-centre, who Penney says is an “energiser bunny”, and No.8 Will Harris who has pushed Wallaby Jack Dempsey back to the bench.
NSW may boast more caps in their starting XV (550 to 481), which is boosted by the tallies of captain Rob Simmons (150 games) and club stalwart Michael Hooper (144), but only two of their seven starting backs have played more than 11 matches at this level.
Penney is convinced his crop of rookies – such as Walton, Harris, Will Harrison, Angus Bell, Mark Nawaqanitawase and Ben Donaldson – can deal with the high expectations already placed on them as a result of impressive Junior Wallabies results last year.
The under-pressure Kiwi coach is confident, not hopeful, of coming away from Brisbane with competition points.
“Standards are set mate … we can’t accept mediocrity,” Penney said. “The boys have been picked because they are good enough and the expectation is they will deliver on that. We won’t be reducing any expectations due to age.
“It’d be fair to say the energy levels were led by, to a large degree, the young boys … and everybody got in behind and rode the crest of that wave. The time is right to give them an opportunity and let them unleash themselves.
“There’s a big expectation and so there should be that a lot them will come through and the next World Cup will hopefully be a really happy place for Australian rugby. They’ve taken it in their stride and their maturity has been wonderful.
“We’ve got to make people fall in love with rugby again here and make it a game people want to spend some time being involved with. We have a massive responsibility to the greater game.”
NSW Waratahs v Queensland Reds at Suncorp Stadium, Friday, 7.05pm
Waratahs (1-15): Angus Bell, Robbie Abel, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Ned Hanigan, Rob Simmons, Lachlan Swinton, Michael Hooper, Will Harris, Mitch Short, Will Harrison, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Joey Walton, Alex Newsome, James Ramm, Jack Maddocks.
Bench: Tom Horton, Tetera Faulkner, Tiaan Tauakipulu, Tom Staniforth, Jack Dempsey, Michael McDonald, Ben Donaldson, Tepai Moeroa.
Reds (1-15): Harry Hoopert, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Taniela Tupou, Angus Blyth, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Liam Wright, Fraser McReight, Harry Wilson, Tate McDermott, James O’Connor, Filipo Daugunu, Hamish Stewart, Hunter Paisami, Jock Campbell, Bryce Hegarty.
Bench: Alex Mafi, JP Smith, Josh Nasser, Tuaina Taii Tualima, Angus Scott-Young, Scott Malolua, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Josh Flook.
Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald