When Mahalia Murphy missed out on an Aussie Sevens contract at the start of this year, she wasn’t sure what 2018 would bring.
Though she has played XVs and Sevens since switching to rugby in 2015, it was the latter in which she had really cut her teeth, a regular in the squad and on the World Series circuit.
It wasn’t until the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup that Murphy truly took a stride in XVs and it was in the longer format of the game where she really made her mark this season.
Murphy starred for the Wallaroos in their two Tests against New Zealand’s Black Ferns in Sydney and Auckland, before playing the back half of the year in the Aon Uni 7s and featuring in an development Sevens side that topped the Oceania Sevens earlier this year.
She counts the Wallaroos’ Sydney outing – Australia’s first home Test in a decade – as one of the highlights of her season.
With a team of amateur players, the Wallaroos had limited time together as a national squad before that Test and their improvement gave Murphy hope in the progress women’s rugby can make.
“I think this year it would have to be playing for the Wallaroos in Sydney, it was another opportunity to play on home soil in front of family and friends which was something special for me,” she said.
“The two weeks that we spent together we gelled together, and we got even better for the next game and I think that shows that the more we spend time together we can potentially be a better team.”
Once the XVs season wrapped up, Murphy had to up her fitness game to prepare for the Uni 7s tournament, filling a leadership role in an inexperienced University of Adelaide Romas side and.
“It was pretty challenging,” she said.
“The training intensity at that time in XVs wasn’t too intense and obviously Sevens is a much faster game so going from XVs to Sevens was quite challenging
“But I did well considering I had a bit of break coming back into Sevens.
“My performance, skill and knowledge of the game has grown and getting around the girls I’ve learnt so much from each and every one of them.”
Without a full-time playing contract, Murphy has thrown herself into helping to develop the sport across the country, in a development role with Rugby Australia.
Love what I’m doing, doing what I love. Travelling around Australia, introducing programs & sharing the word of rugby with the next generation & our future stars. Had the pleasure of spending a day in Dubbo last week sharing my knowledge & my journey experience with these kids from all over the Central West Region of NSW to inspire them to chase their dreams and burst through whatever challenges they come across. I have so much passion to help any individual in ANY way to chase their dream no matter what it is. Through darkness, there is light💡 🙏🏾💗🏉 #BetterOurFuture #NextGeneration #Havefaith #Achieve #HaveFun #Patience #TeachThemYoung #TrustTheProcess #Believe #Inspire #Opportunity
Murphy visits schools and communities to help introduce children to rugby, something she is very passionate about.
She wears her Indigenous heritage with pride and Murphy is a strong advocate for the Deadly 7s program that aims to open the door for more Indigenous players to come into rugby, an area in which the sport has at times lagged behind its competitors.
Now firmly embedded in rugby, former Jillaroo Murphy said she hadn’t entertained a return to rugby league even with some of the challenges of 2018.
“I think when I first started it was a bit hard to sacrifice league and just focus on sevens but being able to train every day and then have the opportunity to travel around the world really shows you that it’s worth it,” she said.
Murphy, who still often trains alongside the full-time Sevens, said her focus was on returning to that squad in 2019 and beyond.
“I’m very fortunate to swap back into both codes so I’m enjoying both and looking forward to playing both in the future,” she said.
“Lately I’ve been struggling with a bit of a hamstring niggle, and not getting selected into Sevens teams due to whatever reason but at the moment I’m just trying to better my body physically and mentally to have a good season for 2019 on the Sevens Series.”