Before he was a Magpie and a Rising Star nominee, Sam Murray cut his teeth as a goal-kicking midfielder in the Ovens and Murray Football League. There he came across Ryan Garthwaite, future Richmond draftee, as an opposition player, who shares his experiences playing against and alongside Murray in an exclusive AFLPlayers.com.au.
Country footy taught me much of what I know today. It’s footy at its purest form, tough and hard with more than a few characters around.
But every now and then a player comes along that takes your eye. That player was Sam Murray.
As a bottom-aged player in the Murray Bushranges program, I only managed to play two games for Corowa-Rutherglen over the 2015 season.
One of those games was against the Wodonga Raiders — a strong side with more than enough talent across the field to take them far in season 2015.
But we left the John Foord Oval turf in Round 8 after going down by 51 points and Sam was the one bloke who really separated the two sides.
He started in the middle of the ground. I reckon he had about 30 touches but it was the quality of his possessions that tore us apart.
He had great speed and agility. It’s very similar to what we’re seeing at AFL level now. He took the game on that day, running and bouncing the ball and finishing with that penetrating left foot of his.
He broke the lines and kicked two goals from the middle of the ground after breaking away from stoppages and booting 50-metre bombs.
He also moved to the forward line for a quarter and a bit and kicked another three from there. That made it five for the game
That Round 8 clash sticks in my mind because of the way he played — those players don’t come along very often.
I actually played alongside Sam as well. We played in a Riverina school carnival side one year when I was around 14 and he was 15. Sam was pretty much the same player back then as he is now.
He was never a massive kid and clearly he’s put on some size and height nowadays but you could never question his pace and courage to take the game on.
He’s very silky — there was a bit of razzle-dazzle about him despite the fact that we got touched up by the private schools.
He seems like a genuine person, too. I must admit, I don’t know him that well but he always came across as guy who likes a laugh, always up for a chat and quite humble.
He finished third in the Ovens and Murray League best and fairest in 2015, former Tiger Dean Polo finished second, and he was drafted straight out of the O&M competition.
Sam clearly had the ability but sometimes, for whatever reason, things just don’t fall your way as a junior. In a sign of great determination and resilience, Sam came back and played his way, worked hard and eventually got his opportunity.
It was massive for the region and was the first time I’ve seen a player drafted directly out of that footy league. As a youngster, that gave me a lot of hope — there’s still a chance I could make it even if things didn’t work out at TAC Cup level.
There would be a lot of young kids that would look up to Sam Murray — his story is inspiring for a lot of Riverina youngsters.