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Mighty Mick Murphy - A Barrow and St Helens powerhouse


SCHOOLMASTER, TV actor, politician, rugby club director – and topping the list for endurance in Mick Murphy’s varied career ... 17 years as a blockbusting prop forward.

The Liverpool-born Murphy was signed from Leigh for £1,500 and spent three years at Craven Park and made more than 100 appearances before moving to St Helens in September 1972.

He still has such fond memories of the town that he looks upon Barrow as his second home even though he spends much of his time these days in southern France, where he was also a leading player with St Jacques and Tonniens.

He met his wife Rose in Barrow, taught at Howard Street College and still has strong family links in the area.

“And whenever I visit the town I come with a big order for Barrow pies,” he said.

In an age when rugby league was at its most brutal and often violent, Murphy offered far more than a 17 stone frame knocking chunks off opposition forwards.

His handling skills and speed – his 11-second 100 yards was impressive for any forward – made him a crowd favourite and the Craven Park faithful were sorry to see him leave.

“When I moved to Barrow they were building up a strong team. They had been to Wembley less than two years earlier and they signed four of us from Lancashire to help strengthen the team.

“We were playing at a high level and on equal terms with clubs like St Helens but then the team started to break up. Frank Foster went off to Oldham, Tommy Brophy joined Rochdale and Keith Jarrett went to Wigan before suffering a serious stroke that ended his career.”

Murphy, who earned two Lancashire caps, moved to Knowsley Road where he had another successful spell before moving on to Bradford Northern.

“I didn’t want to leave Saints, but coach Jim Challinor had gone and Eric Ashton took over. He wanted to buy a centre and I was the one who had to go. It seemed everybody wanted to be a prop in those days. There were players like Kel Coslett and John Mantle who fancied a move into the front row – why couldn’t they just stick to their own jobs!”

Prop forwards in the Mick Murphy mould are a forgotten breed in the modern game of uncontested scrums.

“In those days you spent half your time on one leg trying to twist the opposing prop and helping your hooker to fight for the ball,” Mick recalls with a hint of nostalgia.

Looking ahead to the Challenge Cup tie, Murphy believes that the win over Castleford was just the tonic Barrow needed and, although he expects a Saints win, he said: “There’s no reason why it should be a runaway victory. After all, Saints are not having the greatest season.”

Now 67, Murphy once stood as a parliamentary candidate in Knowsley and was a main mover behind the rescue of Huddersfield RL club in the eighties.

Although living in Huddersfield – where he has two seats as a life member of the Giants and is president of the town’s rugby union club – his French connection keeps him close to the money bags 15-a-side code.

“Rugby League in France just can’t compete. For instance, Toulouse Rugby Union club had a budget of 28 million euros and all their sponsors are huge companies.

“The same applies in England. People in the north have nothing to be ashamed of – we have a good game that attracts big crowds for the top matches, we just don’t have the widespread appeal of rugby union. It doesn’t matter.”

Mick Murphy never applied for the top job in Rugby League. He probably couldn’t find the time.

Have your say

Never done this before, got rather nostalgic and the forward roll expert from Carnegie came to the fore !!
Still in Jersey but got a Vila in the Canaries ,for when it is too cold!!
Hope all is well with you et al ,never quite made the Rutland tennis squad but am stil trying . Never forgot you couldn't catch me on the hockey pitch .
It would be good to hear from you

John Downey ( Scotties best mate)

Posted by John Downey on 12 October 2013 at 22:10

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