Queensland Rugby Union [QRU] chief executive David Hanham has hit out at claims Reds coach Brad Thorn is "not a team player," saying he has raised concerns with Rugby Australia boss Andy Marinos after an unnamed source was quoted in a Sydney Morning Herald article.
Thorn earlier this week revealed his intention to one day coach the Wallabies, potentially creating a situation where he and Brumbies coach Dan McKellar go head to head to replace Dave Rennie whenever it is he steps away.
"If the opportunity presented itself at the right time later down the track, I would be honoured to coach the Wallabies, but that's for other people to make that decision," Thorn told the Herald.
But the same article also quoted an RA source that said Thorn had been unaccommodating when it came to "high-performance changes" thought to revolve around a move towards a more centralized system the kind of which exists in New Zealand.
"In the context of getting greater changes around high-performance coaching, Thorn has not been good to work with," the source told the Herald. "He has not been a team player. A decision doesn't have to be made now but he had better turn that around - and quickly."
Those comments have clearly angered the Reds, however, with QRU boss Hanham on Wednesday night issuing a media release detailing his frustrations with the leak from head office.
"On behalf of the Queensland Rugby Union (QRU), I would like to refute recent comments made by an unnamed Rugby Australia (RA) source in The Sydney Morning Herald," Hanham said.
"It's disappointing to see these comments and after reading this, I have raised my concerns with RA CEO Andy Marinos and he will follow up directly.
"From the QRU's perspective, Brad is doing a wonderful job here in Queensland leading our football program and developing our players to be best prepared for both national and international success with the Queensland Reds and Wallabies."
Thorn has enjoyed great success in Queensland, having begun his coaching career with the organisation in the now defunct National Rugby Championship when he was at the helm of Queensland Country.
From there he progressed to the Reds' senior role, making several tough decisions that saw James Slipper and Karmichael Hunt moved on after they were both found to have taken cocaine. Thorn also banished Quade Cooper from Ballymore, leaving the now returned Wallabies playmaker in club rugby while he was still under contract.
But the former All Blacks lock is now enjoying the fruits of his labour having brought through a talented group of young players that includes Wallabies Taniela Tupou, Fraser McReight, Harry Wilson, Tate McDermott and Jordie Petaia, while also managing to get the best out of James O'Connor at fly-half.
While McKellar is already an assistant to Rennie at the Wallabies, and viewed as his likely successor, the Kiwi last year told ESPN he may well be interested in coaching on beyond his current contract which expires at the end of 2023. The lure of a British & Irish Lions series two years later may be too hard for Rennie to resist, though he also wants to hand over to a coach from within the Australian system.
Whatever the case, if Thorn's Reds continue to impress in Super Rugby Pacific it will only further muddy the situation when it does come time for Rennie to move on.
In the meantime, it appears tensions are running hot between Moore Park and Ballymore.