Legend Murray to be remembered on Sunday
The Man of the Match award in Sunday’s World Club Challenge clash at Headingley Carnegie Stadium will make history in being the first-ever recipient of the Graham Murray Medal, named after the late North Queensland Cowboys and Leeds Rhinos legend.
Murray spent just two years with the Rhinos in the late ‘90s but left a lasting legacy by winning the 1999 Challenge Cup, while he proved to be a popular figure at the Cowboys where he was Head Coach between 2002 and 2008.
“He was a superb man manager,” said Barrie McDermott, who won his sole Challenge Cup winners’ medal under Murray.
“Leeds were trying to regroup after a tough few years when he came in. He was instrumental in laying the platform for what Leeds have achieved in Super League.
“The 80s and 90s were barren spells for Leeds and the self-belief had gone from the club.
“We use the term ‘sleeping giant’ with a few clubs in the current game – Leeds were one of those before Graham Murray arrived.
“He took the club and woke it up. He won the club’s first major title for many years in 1999 and showed all the fans and players a glimpse of what it was like in the glory days.
“He made a massive impact on the club and, personally, I played in quite a combative style and was perhaps a bit reckless sometimes before he arrived, but he taught me to channel that and helped me achieve a lot of things I would never have been able to do without him.”
McDermott has fond memories of Leeds’ historic run to the 1999 Challenge Cup title, where he scored a try as Leeds thrashed London Broncos 52-16 in the Wembley final.
“He was a huge part of why we managed to win the Cup that year,” he said.
“It was an amazing journey to get to the final; we played against Wigan with 12 men, beat a tough Widnes side from the second division and I enjoyed probably the most memorable game of my career when we beat Bradford in the semi-final at Huddersfield.
“In the final, we were all guilty of being a little bit complacent at first. We thought it was going to be a formality but Graham turned us around at half time.
“What he said was powerful and we ended up winning the game by a huge margin in the end.
“In terms of getting the absolute best out of players and maximising their potential, Graham was the best coach I ever played under,” McDermott added.
“We weren’t a team of superstars in 1999. There were elements of class from the likes of Iestyn Harris, but Graham got so much out of players like me, Andy Hay, Leroy Rivett, Anthony Farrell, Darren Fleary.
“He understood who we were as players – we were from all kinds of different backgrounds but we gelled well under him.”
Murray’s widow Amanda has flown in to present the medal in her late husband’s honour after the game on Sunday, and McDermott said: “The Graham Murray Medal is a lovely touch.
“His family are coming over to present it which will be great. When they came over shortly after Graham’s death, the warmth they felt from the South Stand that day was incredible and I know they appreciated it.
“This will be a fitting way for him and his legacy at both clubs to be remembered.”