Tom Murphy set to fly high in league
BY THE time 2014 ends, 23-year-old journeyman Tom Murphy will have trained under Des Hasler, Craig Bellamy, Ivan Henjak and Glen Dreger over the course of a single calendar year.
He will have been cut by a team destined to play in the NRL grand final, helped another end the longest losing streak in Queensland state league history and have received an invite to do pre-season training alongside Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk.
Life's a rollercoaster when you are an outsider battling for an NRL roster spot - and no one understands that better than Murphy, the Sunshine Coast Falcons' standout back-rower.
"I've been just about everywhere, but that's why we play footy - to chase the dream of playing at the highest level," Murphy said yesterday.
Murphy began his NRL journey as a teenager, moving from the Coast to boarding school in Rockhampton, and continued it when he picked up a youth contract with the Canberra Raiders.
After starring alongside future NRL stars Jack Whighton and Josh Papalii in the national capital's highly respected youth academy, he returned to Queensland in 2012 and helped Redcliffe reach the Intrust Super Cup grand final.
A Canterbury contract followed this year, but an ankle injury in the first trial ended that dream before it started.
"It was hard to watch what the guys went on to achieve (playing in the grand final), but it was good because I saw the tough work they had done behind the scenes and it confirmed what I knew - that they were going to have a great year on the back of that summer," Murphy said.
"I grew as a footballer and it was a massive thing for me to experience the calibre of the coaching staff and playing staff that was down there."
Murphy instantly impressed Sunshine Coast officials when he returned to the club midseason.
He helped the Falcons end a record-breaking 36-game losing streak in the state league and become a more competitive unit.
Chief executive Chris Flannery made extending Murphy's Falcons contract an off-season priority and the newly signed back-rower was one of two Coast players picked to spend the four weeks with the Melbourne Storm in the upcoming pre-season.
He and fellow forward Rueben Baillie are the first benefactors of a deal with Melbourne that allows two Falcons players each year to spend the pre-season with the Storm.
"There's so much I can learn from the guys down there. I'm just going to rip in and leave no stone unturned," he said.