Almanac Footy History: 65 years ago Kevin Murray plays his first game for the Fitzroy FC

 

This week marks the 65th Anniversary of Club Legend Kevin Murray’s first ever senior game for Fitzroy on May 7th, 1955.

By David Leydon

 

The whole course of Fitzroy Football Club history was changed in this very week 65 years ago when the greatest Roys player of all Kevin Murray, aged 16 years and 323 days, played his first ever senior game for our club.

 

It was the Round 4 game of the 1955 season played at the Brunswick Street Oval against Geelong.

 

Kevin was the son of Fitzroy 1944 Premiership player Dan Murray and had been attracting considerable praise throughout the pre-season and in the early rounds of the season for his form in the Reserves.

 

It was a time of rebuilding at Fitzroy following the retirement the season before of legends such as our 1950 Brownlow Medal winner Allan Ruthven, 1952 Best and Fairest Neville Broderick and the great George Coates.

 

Over the course of 1954 and 1955 Fitzroy debuted a series of players that would go on to be the backbone of the sides that later made the finals in 1958 and 1960. Names such as Owen Abrahams, Ron Harvey, Brian Pert and Rod Vernon were the youthful arm playing alongside the experience and toughness of the great Norm Johnstone, Alan Gale, Jack Gervasoni, Eddie Goodger, Don Furness and Jack Streader.

 

To round things out the team was captain coached by the much loved Bill Stephen and with the addition of young Murray the nucleus was there for an exciting future.

 

Kevin was selected as 20th man for this his first senior game. These were the days when there was no interchange. Clubs could name two reserves, a 19th and 20th man, who could replace (not interchange) another player during the course of the game.

 

With Fitzroy 9 points down at three quarter time coach Billy Stephen threw Kevin Murray into the action for the first time when he replaced the injured Leo Smyth.

 

The last quarter of this game became renowned for another unique occurrence when Roys full forward Tony Ongarello, who had been struggling for accuracy all day, suddenly decided to use a place kick when lining up for goal. He kicked two goals with this method in the final quarter to finish with 5 for the match.

 

A terrible umpiring decision in the dying minutes when a clear mark wasn’t paid to Norm Johnstone in the goal square stopped the rampaging Roys momentum and cost them the game by 10 points.

 

Kevin Murray clearly excited everyone in his 30 odd minutes on the ground. Newspaper reports in The Argus said that ‘he impressed when he came on as a reserve on Saturday’ and The Herald said ’16 year old Kevin Murray came on in the final term and promptly had a couple of kicks…’.

 

This of course was just the beginning.

 

He played the remainder of 1955 in the Senior team, going from strength to strength, eventually winning the Best First Year Player Award by seasons end with the Annual Report suggesting that he had a brilliant future ahead of him.

 

Well – they were right.

 

Fast forward to Round 22, 1974 and Kevin Murray played his 333rd and last game for Fitzroy – against Geelong at the Roys home ground of the 1970s, the Junction Oval.

 

What happened in between?

 

  • 9 club Best and Fairest wins
  • The 1969 Brownlow Medal
  • Fitzroy Coach 1963 – 1964
  • Fitzroy Captain 1963-64 and 1967-72.
  • Fitzroy Life Member 1964
  • Fitzroy Team of the Century 2001
  • 30 State representative games (24 Vic, 6 WA)
  • AFL team of the Century 1996
  • AFL Hall of Fame 1996
  • AFL Life Member

 

This is an amazing set of credentials for a man playing at a club that had little money and resources in the 1950s and 60s and, except for a couple of stand out seasons, struggled badly on field.

 

Throughout all of the adversity and everyday club difficulties Kevin Murray stood out like a beacon of hope for supporters.

 

Everyone who seen him play remembers his fierce determination and desire to win every contest for the ball. He was rarely (if ever) beaten by an opponent.

 

His 1969 Brownlow Medal is widely regarded as the most popular win of all time such was the respect he always commanded throughout his career.

 

That respect has only grown in the many years since. Whenever he shows up at a Fitzroy or Brisbane Lions event these days he is swamped by fans of every age.

 

Everyone loves Kevin Murray – from people in their 80s that saw him play his first game to 5 year-old fans who have only heard about him from Grandparents (or Great Grandparents!).

 

For many of us Kevin Murray is the greatest Royboy of all.

 

Kevin Murray 1950s

 

The iconic mark. Kevin Murray climbs high over Melbourne’s Ron Barassi at Brunswick Street Oval 1961.

 

 

Speaking at the MCG on Grand Final day 1969 after doing a lap of honour with his 1969 Brownlow Medal

 

 

Running out to a guard of honour from for his final game against Geelong, Junction Oval 1974.

 

 

Action from that final game in 1974

 

 

Getting chaired from the ground after his final game in 1974

 

 

At Brunswick Street Oval in recent years

 

With Jonathan Brown for opening of the mural in 2020 at the Royal Derby Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

1960s photos

 

 

This article first appeared on the Fitzroy FC website.

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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Comments

  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Great tribute David. Saw KM play a few times; head down, shoulders hunched and always gave 110% even if the team was down by 10 goals.

  2. steve earl says

    Well done David – my son Lachie – like many a young football fan has proudly worn Kevin’s Brownlow around his neck – you remind me to give him a call to say g’day. Another great in your article had his 92nd birthday a month or so ago and had a magnificent interview on SEN in Bill Stephen.
    Go Roys

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    Fantastic piece David. Love the photos. What a career, starting at 16, a late career Brownlow, universally loved. He was before my time but I always love seeing K.Murray interviewed.

  4. Fabulous story. 1955 to 1974, wow! He would have seen a few changes. The differences in those almost 20 years would have been massive. And not just on the footy grounds.

    The sexual revolution, man into space, man on the moon, Vietnam and the era of protest, Gough, Kennedy assassinations, Martin Luther King, the 1970 grand final, colour TV, Norman Gunston.

  5. A great tribute to a great Royboy, David.
    Kev really had two almost identical-length careers at Fitzroy: 166 games between 1955 and 1964 and 167 matches from 1967 to 1974.
    It’s remarkable to think that because he was away with the Victorian team when Fitzroy had its only victory in 1963, followed by the Lions’ winless 1964 and then him having two seasons as captain-coach of East Perth, Muzza went almost five years without signing the famed La Marseillaise.

  6. Daryl Schramm says

    How many games played for East Perth? Anyone with 20 straight seasons of playing at the top level should have legend status. Add to that it looks as if he didn’t miss too many games during the longer seasons at the end of his career. Amazing.

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