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It was 65 years ago this week...


By David Leydon

This week marks the 65th anniversary of Club Legend Kevin Murrays first ever senior game for Fitzroy on May 7th, 1955.

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 for his form throughout the pre-season and in the early rounds of the season for 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 who would become 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 wasnt 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 Saturdayand The Herald said 6 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 season's 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 1963964
  • Fitzroy Captain 119634 and 19672
  • 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 the adversity and everyday club difficulties Kevin Murray stood out like a beacon of hope for supporters.

Everyone who has 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.

Kevin Murray's 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 the great man 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 who 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.

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