Muirhead's all-in rugby gamble pays off

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Brumbies winger Andy Muirhead went all in on rugby in 2016 and the former powerline technician hasn't looked back.

Muirhead was one month into a job as a linesman after completing his apprenticeship but he could never quite shake a desire to truly pursue a full-time rugby career after dabbling both in New Zealand and Australian rugby while working.

So, he handed in his resignation to the surprise of his bosses and rolled the dice on his rugby potential, moving to Canberra and playing with John I Dent Cup club Royals.

“Rugby was something I wanted to do full-time and sometimes you've just got to put all the eggs in one basket and give it a go,” he said.

“That was sort of my last shot at playing with a Super Rugby team so I had to do it otherwise I would've been pretty gutted, just left wondering if it would ever happen I guess.

“My workplace back in Brissie was a pretty sought after job and they don't really get too many people resigning so when I handed in my resignation they rang up to double check that's what I wanted to write down because they weren't really expecting it, to be honest."

Having that qualification, a path encouraged by Muirhead’s mother Janelle, is a safety net for Muirhead but it also may ironically have been the thing that kept him in Australian rugby.

“A big thing my mum always drove into me - I always wanted to do football but she always made me do the trade,” he said.

“Probably if it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have gone down that path, I would've just tried to play footy full-time from when I was younger but I'm pretty lucky to have her there to put me in the right space and say, ‘No, you've got to think outside of footy first’, and just in case it doesn't work out or if injuries happen.

“I don't think I would be where I am now at all if I didn't go down the path I did.

“Obviously after not getting too much love from Super Rugby clubs when I was younger, even when I was trying to, I probably would've just been lost overseas somewhere playing somewhere over there.

Just months after moving down, the Brumbies came calling and a season-ending injury to Lausi Taliauli opened the door for Muirhead to make his Super Rugby debut.

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing in one of the most competitive outside back departments in Australia but Muirhead said his focus was on learning from players like Wallaby Henry Speight.

“A lot of the stuff I've learned from them I probably wouldn't have if they weren’t here so I'm still every day trying to soak up as much as I can because you always can improve and learn,” he said.

“Having someone like Henry there that's played for Australia and has so many caps for the  Brumbies that he's always got a bit of knowledge that you can pick off so pretty privileged with that.”

Tough days on the pitch simply don't compare to his life before the move and the perspective a life in a trade gave him has only made him appreciate his Super Rugby chance even more.

“You get some tough days in footy and during preseason where you think you'd rather be doing something else but obviously I always think back when I'm having a tough day how much worse it can be and was in terms of work-wise," he said.

“I'm pretty privileged to be in the position to train and play footy as a job, so fortunate for me I've had that experience on both sides of the spectrum and definitely appreciate it a little bit more.”

Injury opened the door for Muirhead to step up again this year when Toni Pulu fractured his cheekbone and the former Souths winger took the opportunity with both hands.

Andy Muirhead appreciates every day at the Brumbies. Photo: WalmsleyMuirhead is one of a handful of Brumbies players who have made their way south from Queensland for more opportunities, including breakout star Tom Banks, and the winger said there was a simple reason why the ACT seemed a good fit.

“Coming down here be it your first year or your fifth year, everyone's on the same page and no one's bigger than the person next to them,” he said.

“Everyone's opinions matter and it's not like you're going to get pushed to the side.

“Everyone's there to get better and they invest time in everyone equally.

“We've got a fair few young guys that aren't in that 23 but they're very good young guys that I think over the next year or two they'll come up in Super Rugby and you'll notice how much they've developed and I think that's a credit to the Brumbies program.”

The Brumbies wingers will have a big test on Friday night as they face Marika Koroibete and Jack Maddocks looking to avenge a round one loss in Canberra.

The Brumbies take on the Rebels on Friday March 8, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Kayo Sports and via RADIO. Buy tickets here.