AFTER 15 seasons at the Carlton Football Club, 13 years as a teammate of Matthew Kreuzer and 11 years as a teammate of Bryce Gibbs, Thursday marked a day of reflection for Marc Murphy.
Throughout their time in football, the careers of Murphy, Gibbs and Kreuzer have naturally always been linked, having arrived at Carlton as the No.1 draft selections in three consecutive seasons.
Arriving in football as fresh-faced 18-year-olds and spending the majority of their football lives together, Murphy was full of praise and admiration for not only his teammates, but good friends off the field.
Murphy knew the news was coming from Kreuzer in advance — and in the words of the former captain, it was done in the most Matthew Kreuzer way imaginable.
“In true ‘Kreuz style’, he told me in the elevator. I couldn’t actually respond to him because a lady walked in at the same time,” Murphy said.
“I couldn’t say anything other than ‘Mate, why tell me in the elevator?!’. It sums up ‘Kreuz’ though, he doesn’t like to make a big fuss about himself.
“I’m extremely proud of him, he’s been one of the finest players I’ve played with. He’s been a heart-and-soul player of the Blues and you always stood taller with him playing next to you.”
Then, there’s the case of Gibbs, with who Murphy will share a final chapter with on Sunday in opposition.
It will be the third and final time that the close friends will come up against each other on the field after 209 games as teammates.
While the 2014 John Nicholls Medallist has always been known for his class, it will be his commitment to the team that Murphy will always remember.
“He’s underestimated in his selflessness: in his first 4-6 years, he always played a role. He was probably always a midfielder but he played back, up forward, tagging roles — there were a few occasions on Adam Goodes where he got his job done on him,” he said.
“He was Mr. Fix-It because he was so good in every spot and I know ‘Ratts’ tried to put him anywhere and everywhere.
“He’s a super player who won a best and fairest and was probably stiff not to win a couple more.
As the first of the three, Murphy knew all about being the No.1 draft selection in terms of the perception and pressure.
With the Nos.3, 4 and 8 on the back of Navy Blue jumpers in crowds all over the country, Murphy said their dedication to their careers and football club was what enabled such long tenures at the elite level.
“To play that amount of footy takes an enormous amount of resilience and character. When you’re taken with the No.1 pick, you’ve got enormous talent but they’ve also got great strength of character,” he said.
“‘Kreuz’ is an extreme workhorse — we call him ‘the Tractor’ because he keeps on getting through the ground. He’s faced a lot of adversity with his body.
“The way in which [Gibbs] attacked that last season at Carlton after not being able to get that trade initially and to play such good footy… it was great strength of character for him to be able to do that.
“They’re both going to be sorely missed. I have great memories playing with those guys.”
While Murphy was 19 when Gibbs entered the doors of Ikon Park and 20 when Kreuzer did so, the “next chapter” is all about Father Time.
"I didn't know it was coming... I thought I was getting booed!"— Carlton FC (@CarltonFC) September 11, 2020
From his first centre bounce, Matthew Kreuzer warmed every Navy Blue heart. Now, the Tractor will replace the home of football for family time in the backyard: and you can't begrudge that. ??#ThankYouKreuz
From No.1 draftees to dads, Murphy said they would lap up the opportunity to catch up and reminisce when the time is right — and the situation permits.
“Thinking back to when we were all young kids trying to make our way, they were pretty fun times,” he said.
“Now, we’re all dads: with ‘Gibbsy’ being interstate, we obviously don’t get to see as much of him as what we’d like. We’ll try to catch up whenever we can and have our kids and wives all together.
“In years to come, we’ll talk about how good we were: the longer you don’t play, the better you become.”