Patrick Joseph Benjamin Murphy
- 111Wallaby Number
Pat Murphy was one of the best forwards in Australia in the years leading up to World War I and a sure selection in both State and national teams whenever he was available. Almost all his big rugby was played against New Zealand teams and he ended his career as a respected opponent for the tough Kiwi forwards. No Australian team looked as strong if his name was missing, but the only matches he missed between his debut and the war were those on the 1912 American tour, for which he was unavailable. One of three brothers who played for the Brothers club, Pat was the best by some margin although Bill also pulled on the maroon jersey.
He made his Queensland debut in 1908 and was a team mainstay until the war and beyond, being one of the almost forgotten men who played the 1919 season in Queensland colours before the code was closed down in the State for a decade. In all he played 36 matches for the State, an abnormally high number for the time. As well as his inter-state matches, Murphy played all three matches for Queensland against the 1908 Anglo-Welsh team, two against New Zealand and one against the Maori team in 1910, two against the 1913 Maori team, two against the 1914 All Blacks and one against the AIF in 1919 – in short, every match contested by Queensland against touring teams during his career. Murphy was one of the most durable men of an era renowned for them. He made his Test debut against the 1910 All Blacks after two strong efforts in the State games.
New Zealand won that match 6-0 but the second Test, played two days later, was a milestone game for Australian rugby. The 11-0 win represented two notable firsts: it was the first time Australia had beaten New Zealand in seven meetings and it was the first time the Wallabies had held an opponent scoreless. Murphy played a blinder in that match, frequently linking up with halfback Fred Wood when he ran and turned the ball back inside to the ever-present Murphy, who then made significant ground gains on many occasions. The All Blacks never came to grips with these tactics and Australia’s superiority slowly spread across the park, until the victory was as comprehensive on the pitch as it was on paper.
New Zealand recovered to win the third Test but Australia had discovered a fine new forward. Despite the inroads rugby league was making at the time, Murphy never wavered in his support of the union code. He was one of the players high up every scout’s list, as his fine form in 1910 marked him out as one of the players of the year but nobody could get his signature. Instead he remained a mainstay of the Queensland pack through two years when there was nothing apart from domestic matches to hold interest.
As mentioned, he was unavailable for the 1912 American tour – the party could have used such a strong, determined character as the tour degenerated into little more than a booze trip – but in 1913 he was sure to be chosen for the trip across the Tasman. That 1913 tour was a strange one, as the star players were worked to a standstill and some of the backups got little rugby; two of the reserve forwards never even got onto the pitch in any of the nine matches. Murphy was at the other extreme, as he played every game. For the most part the local packs kept him under control – no doubt they were well aware of his ability – but the Australians did struggle to win enough possession in the tour’s early stages.
The first Test was a debacle that New Zealand won 30-5 in a storm, while the second was closer than the 25-13 home win may indicate. The Wallabies improved through the tour and eventually won the third Test by 16-5, using much the same tactics to record their first win in New Zealand as they had in Sydney three years earlier. Again Wood ran a lot from the scrumbase and again his preferred option was to use Murphy who was running on his inside shoulder. The big Queenslander then made many smashing runs into the heart of the All Black defence, committing multiple tacklers before freeing the ball for the backs.
He had a fine Test and was one of the best players on the ground on an historic day. Murphy played five matches against the 1914 All Blacks but was on the losing side every time. This New Zealand side was a fine one that completed an unbeaten tour and which would be far more famous today had war not been declared halfway through the trip. The series was played out – Murphy gave his usual strong performances – but as soon as it was over every man from both sides signed up for military duty. Australia lost many more of its players than New Zealand did, although both countries had their populations ravaged, but Murphy survived and returned to Australia fit and healthy enough to resume his rugby career. He played all three matches for Australia against the AIF team that had contested the King’s Cup but when the Queensland union went into recess Murphy, who was by the 32 years of age, called it quits o a long and memorable career.
Pat Murphy was probably the finest forward to represent Queensland prior to World War 1 and was the most capped Queenslander with 36 caps for Queensland between 1908 and 1919, and nine caps for Australia until overtaken by Eddie Bonis in 1937. A labourer with a strong sense of humour, Pat Murphy would have laughed heartily if he had known that he would be described as Bill Murphy’s brother because, although both played for Brisbane Brothers club between 1909 and 1912, they were unrelated. Bill Murphy had only just arrived in Australia from Ireland and had never played rugby before. Pat Murphy was a hard-working lock forward who excelled in the tight exchanges He scored just one try in his long career.
He began his first grade career with Brothers in 1907 when the club boasted four internationals - Phil Carmichael, Jack Fihelly, Peter Flanagan and Voy Oxenham - who had all represented Australia that year. The following season, Murphy missed selection in the early representative matches but he was brought into the Queensland team for two matches against the 1908 Anglo-Welsh team in Brisbane. He owed his selection in the first game to the unavailability of both State locks - Jack Egan and Willie Canniffe. However, although Queensland lost 20-3, Murphy shone in the tight-loose and retained his position for the second match when Canniffe returned.
The latter made a big difference and the visitors were hard pressed to scrape home 11-8. Four days later, Murphy played his third match against the tourists when he was chosen in the Brisbane team that lost 26-3. Thereafter, Murphy was to become a fixture for Queensland and he played in all of the representative matches in 1909. When the All Blacks toured in 1910, Murphy made his debut for Australia in the first Test in Sydney along with two other Queensland forwards, Fred Timbury and ‘Brickey’ Farmer. Where injuries claimed Timbury and Farmer, Murphy figured in all three Test matches, which were played in one week - Saturday 25th June, Monday 27th June and Saturday 2nd July. By now, Murphy was established as the leading lock forward in Australia and his place in the national team was unchallenged.
He was not able to get away for the 1912 tour of America with the Waratahs but he did tour New Zealand in 1913. On this tour, Murphy again demonstrated his durability by playing in all nine tour games, including three Test matches, and he scored a try against Southland. When the All Blacks toured Australia in 1914, Murphy again played in all three Test matches, taking his Test tally to nine, which left him in second place in Test appearances only to Fred Wood, whose number of Test appearances stood at 12. Although World War 1 caused the New South Wales Rugby Union to suspend rugby matches, the QRU continued to stage matches in Queensland and organized an ambitious tour of north and central Queensland by a powerful South Queensland side that included Murphy and seven other internationals. Brothers club was so powerful, it received permission to field two first grade teams of equal strength.
Murphy played in Brothers A with Test players Jimmy Flynn, Tat McMahon, Bill Morrissey and Bluey Thompson. After the War, Murphy continued his rugby career with Brothers and again represented Queensland against the AIF team and New South Wales. He was also included in the Australian team that played matches against the AIF. At the end of the 1919 season, the QRU folded and Murphy continued his football career in rugby league. He was still so well thought of in Sydney that, when New South Wales ran the 1921 Springboks close in the second match in Sydney, there were calls from the Sydney press to add Murphy and Jimmy Flynn to the team and call it Australia! Pat Murphy’s remarkable longevity was a tribute both to his enthusiasm and his durability and he deserves to be remembered as one of the finest forwards produced by Australia before the First World War.