NOOSA – The sad new has arrived from fellow ex-chalkie Leo Carroll that the indomitable Val Murphy died in Perth on Friday.
Val was a bear of a man whose appearance told you all you needed to know about his approach to rugby league.
But beneath the rugged exterior was the gentle spirit of a mentor and an acute mind that took an exacting attitude to organisation and management.
Older Papua New Guineans will remember him as the coach of the Kumuls national rugby league team in 1979.
In Western Australia, where he and wife Mary settled, he is recognised for his longstanding service to that state’s rugby league, of which he was a life member.
He was also awarded life membership of the Australian Secondary Schools Rugby League for his major input to the game’s development.
Over many decades Val ensured that players were given every opportunity to develop their game and play at the highest level.
Val [Class of 1961-62] was the year ahead of me at the Australian School of Pacific Administration, where we were both trainee teachers.
He was famous for his rugby league playing prowess which continued while he taught in Papua New Guinea, where his initiatives in organisation and management led to tours by NSW Combined High Schools to PNG 1967-76 and a PNG tour of NSW in 1973.
Val was the Australian Secondary Schools Rugby League delegate for Western Australia and the State’s team manager from 1994-2002, the Affiliated States’ team manager in 1999, 2002 and 2003, and in 2007 the inaugural team manager of the Combined Affiliated States.
This long and top level service contributed hugely to raising the profile of rugby league in Western Australia and in other non-traditional rugby league states.
In his day job as principal of Aranmore Catholic College, Val established the Rugby League Academy in 2001.
This supported new pathways to elite rugby league players from Western Australia. The number of players who travelled to the eastern states to pursue rugby league is a testament to his work. The College also toured a team to Great Britain in 2000 and South Africa in 2001.
The citation for Val’s life membership of the sport described him as “a man of great integrity who has always been a strong advocate for rugby league.”
But to those who knew him as both a sporting stalwart and an eminent teacher, he will be remembered for his robust approach to life, his mentoring of young Papua New Guineans and Australians and his optimistic, enthusiastic and inclusive charm.