Ruaidhrí Murphy spent the first year of his life in Arklow. But when his parents Greg and Lisa decided to move to Australia so that Greg could work in mining, it looked as though the Murphy family’s fate was an Australian one.
However, after 13 years in Australia, the family decided to relocate back to Ireland.
Then 14-year-old Ruaidhrí, along with his two younger siblings Niamh and Rian left their Australian lives behind and in Murphy’s case a baseball pastime that had seen him represent Western Australia at Under 14 level.
All of a sudden Murphy was back in Ireland but the “little voice” in his head, which he simply calls Australia, was never far away.
After a holiday in Perth a year after the family’s return to Ireland, it was at its loudest.
“At 14, you feel you’re pretty established as a youngster. I had two younger siblings who thought they had friends established but obviously I was a bit further on.
“Initially, I thought I would try it for a year. Dad was like, ‘We’ll get you settled in and we’ll get you a new bike’, anything to make the move a bit easier. That happened and for the first year I was reasonably happy.
“But I came back after 12 months with my dad on holiday and decided I wasn’t leaving again and took a lot of convincing to go back to Ireland. Obviously I went back in the end but I didn’t want to.”
On Murphy’s return, he decided that if he was to stay in Ireland, he wanted to go to boarding school and pursue the game he’d always been told he was built to play – rugby.
His move to Castleknock College to board resulted in what he terms his rugby “awakening” and led him to a place on both Leinster and Irish school teams and the Ireland and Leinster under-19 and under-20 set ups.
However, after what he calls a “stale” third year in the Leinster academy, Murphy was on the move again, this time to join up with English club Exeter.
“It just wasn’t happening for me so I made the decision that I was going to move to England and play in the championship in search of games … I went through the championship and we got promoted. I played 18 senior games that year where as I would have played an AIL season plus a handful of A games off the bench if I was lucky so it was a worthwhile decision.
“It wasn’t a hard move because I was so experienced in moving. Maybe my parents had set me up for that. I knew that I was always going to be fine and boarding school had taught me to look after myself.”
:: Little voice
Exeter gained promotion to the Premiership during Murphy’s time but when opportunities for the prop started to look limited, and an offer from London Wasps failed to eventuate, the “little voice” was back.
“Australia was like the little voice in the back of my head the whole time. Also because we had citizenship and passports here it meant that we were always going to have that golden ticket to come back, visa free, as an Aussie, which is how this whole opportunity opened up initially.
“I never forgot about Australia. Although I really enjoyed it at Exeter and had the right opportunity arose to stay there I would have done that. I was getting big game, big occasion experience but just not enough of it. I got an offer to come out here and show my hand, and was told that a Super franchise would pick me up if I was good enough. That’s what I did.”
Murphy returned to Australia and played with East Brisbane and when a trial with the Western Force didn’t quite pan out as Murphy had planned, he got a phone call out of the blue.
“I went back to Brisbane from the trial a little bit deflated, and then Laurie Fisher (former Munster forwards coach/current Brumbies forwards coach) rang me himself and was like do you want to come meet me. Obviously I was like, I’ll see you whenever you need me.”
The rest as they say, is, well down to the little voice. Murphy has started four games for the Australian conference leaders, and featured in every Super rugby game this season.
“In some ways, I think I’m finally getting what I’ve been working towards. I’m 24, I’ve been doing this since I was 18 after six years in a professional rugby environment, I feel like I’ve paid my dues to get to where I am which is a good thing and I wouldn’t go back an do it any other way because I’ve been building nicely to this point.
“In some ways I’m getting that reward but obviously I realise how lucky I am because 12 months ago I was sitting in Brisbane just hoping to get a chance to do this.”
While Murphy feels like he’s at home – and has a passport to prove it – the Brumbies are still trying to get him off their foreign list, not just for the club’s benefit, but to ensure his eligibility for the Wallabies should the opportunity arise.
Under current IRB laws, to qualify to play for a country you or your parents (or a grand parent) must have been born there or you have to reside in the country for 36 months.
The rules do not allow recognition of Murphy’s previous 13 years.
“Unfortunately it’s still going on and we’re quite bemused by it all. It seems pretty black and white in my case but not to them…either way, at 36 months, and I’m contracted to that point here anyway, unless Ireland come looking for me and cap me, I’ll be eligible for the Wallabies. I’ll let my rugby do the talking for now and when that time comes, if I’m good enough in May 2014, the decision can be made.”
:: Mum’s the word
And what if Ireland do come calling – where does Murphy’s loyalty lie then?
“Playing for Ireland under age was fantastic and I was so proud to pull on the green jersey and be part of a successful underage side. And I’m not saying that I wouldn’t pull on a senior jersey. If that opportunity arose I’d have to seriously consider it.
“My mam would kill me if I ever turned it down. At the same time, this is home to me now. But if the day came where I had a decision to make that would be fantastic because I’d have done everything I wanted to do.”
Back to the Murphy’s “interesting” family situation, as he describes it, because it’s a situation that could result in an even more “interesting” rugby scenario in the future.
As Murphy said, his mum Lisa would kill him if he turned down the opportunity to play for the country of his birth.
In Murphy’s words, she wouldn’t move back to Australia ‘for anything’. But the 24-year-old’s dad still commutes back and forth for work usually doing eight weeks at a time in Australia followed by around 12 at home, for the duration of the year.
Then there is his sister Niamh, who having just completed an architecture degree in Ireland, plans to do a Masters in Australia. And finally there is Rian, who is progressing nicely though the Irish rugby system with Blackrock college. Rian is 17-years-old and also a prop, and in his older brother’s words a “better player” than he was at his age.
Murphy also describes him as the most patriotic Irish member of the siblings having been just seven when he returned to Ireland and being the only one to study Irish at school.
So what if the two were to progress to international duty on different sides of the world, and perhaps one day play right opposite each other?
“The pedigree’s in him to do whatever he wants. He’s naturally built to be a prop, he’s a massive 17-year-old with a lot of potential. If he wants it he can go and get it. If it did happen (playing against each other) that would be my mum’s worst nightmare. She wouldn’t know what to do but we’d love it. She’d be proud but she’d be torn,” he laughs.
But then Mrs Murphy must be used to that torn feeling, with a family whose hearts reside across different hemispheres.
“It’s an interesting situation for the family but in a way it’s kind of kept us close. My dad was always traveling, I went off to boarding school, my sister went off to uni and my younger brother is also at boarding school. So it’s a different situation but we’re a really tight family. My mum hated that I went to Australia but she knows the reason why I went.
“On Saturday she can wake up and turn on the TV and the Brumbies game is been shown. That’s justification enough for her. She’s fully supportive now.”
Who she’d support if her sons ever end up donning different international jerseys, is another matter entirely.