I never had the pleasure of meeting Graham Murray but amid the glowing tributes that have flowed since his untimely passing last Sunday night, I thought I’d share a couple of stories that have circulated through the Big League office this week.
Both relate to his dealings with the media from his time as coach of the North Queensland Cowboys, a team that defied the predictions of the vast majority to qualify for the 2005 Grand Final.
In a one-team town such as the Cowboys are in Townsville, the relationship between the local newspaper – in this case the Townsville Bulletin – and its rugby league team is critical. Although he will be heading elsewhere at season’s end, current coach Neil Henry also understands this and we have always found him terrific to deal with and very accommodating.
But Murray took it a step further.
A paper such as the Bulletin is often where young journalists get their start and covering an NRL team is the dream of many aspiring sports writers. Such was his nature, Murray would recognise a young journalist trying to make their way and break down the walls of insecurity or timidness.
“Sometimes you will need to ask me a tough question but the way to go about it is to say, ‘Muzza, I’ve got a prickly one for you,’” would be Murray’s words of advice.
This wasn’t a coach asserting his authority over a ‘green’ journo but a coach, a teacher and father helping someone to make their way in rugby league, the game he loved dearly.
He even invited journalists to his house for a barbecue one Boxing Day!
As their former coach he will have taken great pride in the win by the Jillaroos in the Women’s World Cup recently and not only has rugby league lost one of its finest, but the world is a poorer place without him.
I was sitting in the stands alongside my best mate last Saturday night watching the Titans play the Rabbitohs when Matt turned to me and said, “I reckon all this banning of the shoulder charge has turned fans off a bit.”
Not 10 seconds later John Sutton was ‘brushed’ by a Titans defender after putting up a kick and the Rabbitohs received a penalty 10 metres out from the Titans’ line. The local fans were seething and Matt’s point seemed all the more salient.
I understand we need to develop the game so that it is appealing for young kids to play; I just hope that doesn’t come at the expense of a game that people want to watch.
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