Michael Anthony Murray
Mike Murray, an extremely mobile and technically proficient loose head prop, became part of history in 1986 when he toured with just the second Australian side to win the Bledisloe Cup in New Zealand.
Always in the thick of the tight play, and with good hands for a big man, Murray played rugby league as a young boy before he turned to rugby at St Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill. Murray began his career as a lock in the U12s before he went on to build a decorated schools and aged representative record. Murray played two seasons in the Joey’s 1st XV (1979-80) and won the coveted Brother Henry Trophy for “best forward” in both years. Murray also earned selection for the GPS 1st XV (1979-80) and the New South Wales Schools’ 1st XV (1979-80). In his final year Murray was chosen for Australian Schools, alongside fellow future Wallabies Damien Frawley, Cameron Lillicrap, Steve Tuynman, Brett Papworth, David Knox, Tom Lawton and Gregg Burrow.
After graduation, Murray represented Australia U21s (1982-83) before he made the transition into the front row. Picked at tight head for his first-grade debut, Murray found himself opposed to Wests’ hardened representative loose head Sandy Muston. In a literal ‘welcome to first-grade’ moment, Muston gave Murray a schooling in front row play that day however the experience proved invaluable over the course of his career.
One season of tight head proved to be more than enough and in 1984 Murray switched to the loose side of the scrum where he “found his home”. That quote turned into a sizable understatement by the end of the season as Murray went on to earn a senior rep jumper -- for New South Wales ‘B’ in their narrow 15-21 loss to New Zealand -- and play in the first of what became eight consecutive Shute Shield grand finals. The following year Murray debuted for New South Wales in their 18-26 loss to Queensland at Ballymore however, unsurprisingly, the Grand Slam front-row of Andy McIntyre, Lawton and ‘Topo’ Rodriguez started four of the five domestic Tests.
In 1986 both of Queensland’s first choice props, McIntyre (work commitments) and Lillicrap (injury), were unavailable for the Wallaby tour to New Zealand. As a result, the selectors chose four New South Welshmen - Rodriguez, Burrow, Mark Hartill and Murray - in the touring party. Murray made his debut for Australia in the opening match, the 21-21 draw against Waikato. He started a total of seven matches to finish with a rare unbeaten record of six wins and a draw. Unfortunately, while Murray was selected in the match day squad for each of the three Tests, a debut proved elusive as Hartill and Rodriguez played every minute of the series.
The health of Australian front row stocks was never more evident than in the back half of the decade, firstly when the return of both McIntyre and Lillicrap for the inaugural Rugby World Cup squeezed Murray out of the side and secondly a year later when Hartill, Lillicrap, Peter Kay and Rob Lawton were chosen as the loose-head props in the Wallabies initial 45-man 1991 RWC squad. Not everyone agreed. Late in the 1988 season Murray was the cornerstone of Randwick's impressive 31-9 win over Manly in the Shute Shield major semi-final. Murray scrummaged cleverly, was dominant at the front of the Iine-out and led his pack in the tough going up front. Randwick coach Jeff Sayle said, "He should be picked straight into the Australian team tomorrow." In 1990 the national selectors settled on Tony Daly, Phil Kearns, Ewen McKenzie as the front-row and it proved to be a good call. The trio helped Australia to victory at the 1991 RWC and were partnered in 36 of the Wallabies next 39 Tests through to the end of the 1994 season.
Meanwhile, Murray continued to enjoy great success with Randwick. In 1990 and again in 1991 he shared the first-grade captaincy with Brad Burke as the Galloping Greens won their fourth and fifth consecutive Shute Shield premierships. Also in 1991, Murray toured Argentina with New South Wales where he was honoured with the captaincy in his final two representative matches - against Rosario and Mendoza.
Murray started seven matches on the Wallaby tour of New Zealand - vs. Waikato at Hamilton (D 21-21), vs. Wairarapa-Bush at Masterton (W 18-6), vs. Wanganui (W 24-17), vs. Buller at Westport (W 62-0), vs. South Canterbury at Timaru (W 33-11), vs. Southland at Invercargill (W 55-0), and vs. Thames Valley (W 31-7).