PETER Murray's football career had it all. Goals, time in the AFL-VFL, a series of operations and finally a senior premiership at Henty in the twilight of his playing days. Murray also had to sit back and watch his eldest son, Sam, go through a drug scandal while at Collingwood in 2018. Murray spoke to The Border Mail's BRETT KOHLHAGEN earlier this week about his roller-coaster ride in football.
BRETT KOHLHAGEN: You're 197 centimetres and played over 300 senior matches, I imagine it's taken a toll on your body?
PETER MURRAY: I've had about 20 operations on my feet, hands, back, toes, ankles and knees. I'm losing count and have another one coming at the end of the year. I think I've had about 13 on my knees including three recos, a knee replacement, a screw put in and a hell of a lot of clean outs.
BK: You spent time with Lavington, South Melbourne, Jindera, Ganmain-Grong Grong-Matong, Henty and Border-Walwa. Where did you play the most footy?
PM: I spread it around pretty well (laughs). Probably Lavington because I played juniors there as well as in the Hume league and then later in the Ovens and Murray. I've been back at Henty for 10 years now, not in a playing capacity, but I was on the committee for 10 years and only just got off it to follow my boys.
BK: How did you get from Lavington to South Melbourne?
PM: I was playing for Lavington under Billy Scammell in the Hume league in 1975 at 16 and a bloke called John Warren recruited me in a transfer with Shane Zantuck. In those days you had Shell and Teal Cup and clubs looked at you. I spent two years at South.
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BK: How did you find it?
PM: It was a bit hard with big blokes like Barry Round, Graham Teasdale and Barry Goodingham there. In 1978, an ex-Lavi teammate Richard Hamilton came down and we both got delisted at the end of that season. He went to Fitzroy and I was going to St Kilda where my uncle Bobby Murray played in the 1966 premiership. I couldn't get a transfer as South wouldn't clear me after I played alright in a practice match. They thought they could get some money out of it. So I went to Frankston and played five minutes before I snapped my knee in half.
BK: So you came home?
PM: I did rehab at Lavington under Kenny Roberts and he got me back playing. I was told I wouldn't play again because it was that bad. I crushed the left side of my knee and had a bone graft and screw put through it.
BK: So Roberts was instrumental in you playing again?
PM: Without him, I don't think I would have got back. I played Ovens and Murray and Winfield Championships and things like that and then South Melbourne saw me again when I was a bit older. They gave me a contract and set me a training program but my knee couldn't handle the workload so I didn't go.
BK: Things still weren't right with your knee in 1983, so you went to Jindera as a non-playing coach?
PM: I was a non-playing coach for a season and I thought I'd give it a crack again in 1984 after doing more rehab. I kicked 120 and everything was good. After the first five games in 1985 I think I had 45 on the board and I did my other knee.
BK: You kicked over 600 goals in your career and 135 of them came in Henty's premiership season in 1990. That was a pretty big year.
PM: Nobody gave us a hope that year. Peter King was coaching and he trained the backside off us leading into the finals. Everyone was wondering what he was doing and we ended up beating Jindera in the grand final after coming from fourth. We were all locals with the exception of Graeme Edgar who wasn't a local but he married a local and big Al Winter was out of the army and friends with the Singes. The rest were pretty much kids. I'm looking forward to the 30-year reunion this year.
BK: And that was the only flag you played in?
PM: That one and another in the under-16s. 'Kingy' and I both retired that day. We both ended up playing and coaching again though as it's bloody hard to get it out of your system.
BK: You had some success coaching Border-Walwa too?
PM: It was a great little club up there. I had no intention of coaching as I was running the pub but they convinced me to do it and we won two in a row and lost a third by a few points. I was gutted about that.
BK: What's the most you kicked in a game?
PM: I got 17 against Walbundrie one day and I think most of them were against 'Thomo' (Allan Thomas). Another time I kicked 14 down at Howlong and had the chance to kick our entire score but 'Coke' (Wayne Koehler) went over my head and kicked it to someone else. I was playing on 'Babe' Daly (Wayne) that day and he wasn't very tall which made it hard for him.
BK: I read once you rated Allan Thomas as one of your toughest opponents?
PM: I rucked against him when he was younger and he had a really good leap. In the Ovens and Murray, Bert Tait, Trevor Leslie, Malcolm Ellis and Mark Mills were all good players. Leon Hanel was difficult for Jindera when I played in the forward line and old 'Gambo' (Ian Gambold) at Brock kept me goalless for the first three quarters one day before I kicked three on him in the last.
BK: There was a bit of a story there too wasn't there?
PM: We gave the umpire a lift to the pub after that game because my wife's father, Pat, umpired a fair bit of footy. Sure enough at the league vote count that year I got the three votes. 'Gambo' looked after me though by saying all I did was drive the umpire to the pub and didn't pay him or anything.
BK: You were saying earlier you've heard some funny things come out of coaches' mouths over the years?
PM: For sure. Kenny Roberts, god love him, he was tough and all that sort of stuff but he used to come out with some beauties. We were standing at training one night and he told us to pair up in threes. We just looked at each other and thought this isn't going to work.
BK: And Peter King at Henty?
It was a fair old strain on the family and Sam. I think the AFL has a lot to answer for, I really do.
PM: One day we were out at Osborne playing and 'Kingy' said to Trevor Brooks: 'All I want you to do today is kick five goals'. At three-quarter-time, 'Brookesy' had kicked five and 'Kingy' was looking around to give him a pat on the back. He wasn't there though so 'Kingy' went into the rooms and found him having a shower. 'Brookesy' just pointed that he'd done what he had been asked in kicking five and thought he'd walk off.
BK: 'Kingy' was a hard man on the ground but a real character off it
TD: He tried out-drinking Doug Norton-Smith on the way home from Benalla one night on the bus which was a mistake. I think they had 14 cans and Doug lost his teeth getting off the bus. Then we went to the sports club. Ray Mack, Peter Copley, Ralph (Aalbers), Danny and Pat Murphy and Barry Wise all didn't mind a drop. My dad. Keith, was secretary-manager at the time and he tried to throw us out but I told him he would be right.
BK: You've got four boys now and you really enjoy following them around don't you?
PM: I do. They are all a bit different. Sam is smaller and faster which he didn't get off me, Nick is built like a man-mountain, Paddy had knee injuries early which hasn't helped his footy but he still loves it and Toby is 195cm at 16 and he'll be the biggest out of the lot.
BK: Sam and Nick were going to be teammates at Williamstown this year before coronavirus came into play weren't they?
PM: They were looking forward to it. Sam is busy with work in a media marketing thing in Melbourne and Nick has come home to work on a farm. They train together when they can. There is not much else they can do at the moment. They have just got to wait and see what happens with this virus. Sam, Nick and Toby allhave aspirationsto playat the highest level if they can.
BK: Sam went through a lot at Collingwood with the drug ban
PM: Yeah, he did. It was a fair old strain on the family and Sam. I think the AFL has a lot to answer for, I really do. The kid was found not guilty, he had the substance in his body and how it got there we don't know. He's explained it to the papers and that sort of stuff but for it to drag on for 18 months is wrong. No-one from anywhere got in contact with us to ask us how we were which isn't right in times where mental health is spoken about so much. That was extremely disappointing.
BK: Sam seems like a pretty resilient kid?
PM: He keeps coming back and bouncing up again. He and Nick live together in Melbourne and Nick would always be pushing him as he's a bit of a taskmaster.
BK: Nick had his own disappointment on AFL draft night last year didn't he?
PM: We were sitting here on draft night after Adelaide had shown interest and they said they were going to pick him up. Then they rang and said they had changed their minds and instead were going to rookie him the next morning. They didn't do that either. Clubs just shouldn't put that pressure on kids. I'm still getting the nutri-grain off the kitchen roof from that morning.
BK: Getting back to Sam, how did the family cope when the news broke?
PM: Devastated. We found out through social media when Damian Barrett came up on our AFL feed. We knew nothing about it, then Sam called us and I remember lying in bed at 2am just looking at the roof. We then thought stuff this and got up, jumped in the car and were on his doorstep by 8am.
BK: You struggled to get any clarity on the situation?
PM: Samwasn't allowed to go to Collingwood. We weren't allowed to do anything. I made contact with Geoff Walsh and he said he didn't know anything. That was it. Collingwood still took my membership money out the next year. I got it back.
BK: Those 13 matches at Collingwood were a roller-coaster ride weren't they?
PM: There was nothing more exciting than to watch Sam play his first game. We had the entire family down there against Hawthorn at the MCG. He played well. In his third game he was nominated for the Rising Star and then Anzac Day was phenomenal. It was deadly silent and they played the last post. Then it was all just taken away like that.
BK: Everything happened so quickly
PM: Hopefully someone gives him another crack. He's not a druggo or anything like that. It got into his system some ridiculous way, we don't know. Even the lawyers said that as it was proven in a court of law. We've all got to move on and hopefully he can prove some people wrong that he can still play football.