WAYNE Hughes was not long into his tenure as Carlton Football Club’s National Recruiting Manager when he identified Marc Murphy as priority selection 1 at the 2005 AFL National Draft.
In a top 20 that would include five future Premiership players (Dale Thomas, Josh Kennedy, Scott Pendlebury, Shannon Hurn and Grant Burchill), All-Australians Patrick (‘Paddy’) Ryder, Shaun Higgins and of course a future Carlton captain, dual club best and fairest and 300-game player (almost) in ‘Murph’, Hughes was faced with a myriad of selection challenges with the priority choice and selection 4 at his disposal.
So why Murphy? The following is Hughes’s fascinating insight into how the events of the 2005 draft unfolded on the morning of Saturday, November 26 at the Docklands Stadium, when he called “M. Murphy, Oakleigh Chargers’’ as the first of 76 draftees identified by the 16 recruiters.
In assessing the draft pool leading into the 2005 National Draft we thought Marc Murphy was the No.1 midfielder and Josh Kennedy the No.1 forward. When it came to a decision we were happy to take either, but we realised we would only get ‘Murph’ if we took him at one.
At the time midfielders were the priority because the forwards ‘Fev’ (Brendan Fevola) and Lance Whitnall were both in pretty good form – and not only did I rate ‘Murph’ the best midfielder available, I believed the potential for improvement was greater in him given that he hadn’t done much of a pre-season being a committed cricketer. It’s interesting to note that the future Australian one-day captain Aaron Finch was then working at the club as an assistant in footy IT, and in the lead-up to the draft, ‘Finchy’ prepared videos of all prospective draftees, including Murph with whom he had also played cricket.
Marc had been involved with the AIS Academy for a couple of years, during which time he competed in the Teal Cup for Vic Metro. Despite playing half-back in the first year, on the basis of his second year he was clearly the best midfielder in the country.
Murph was managed by Paul Connors and we obviously knew that he was a potential father/son to Brisbane through his father John Murphy who had played for Fitzroy.
We asked Connors if we could talk to Marc. He basically said no, that he didn’t want Marc’s footy (with Oakleigh Chargers) to be disturbed. But he did suggest we meet with John and have a chat about his boy’s future.
Shane O’Sullivan and I caught up with John over a coffee in Richmond. John told us that Marc was his own man, but we did get the sense that the door wasn’t closed. John also advised that Marc wanted to focus on his footy and didn’t want to talk about his future until the end of the year. Mindful that Marc was heading to Brisbane for a week in in August in accordance with the father/son rules, we asked John if we could have one chat with his boy before he left.
Shane and I met with Marc the week before his trip to Brisbane. We suggested to Marc that the following would happen. “They’(the Lions) will take you to the best seafood restaurant in Brisbane, they’ll come armed with their senior leadership group and all their senior people and they’ll then show you the beautiful beaches. What we want you to do is to go alone to where they train at Coorparoo, then go to the grounds that their reserves play at Mt Gravatt and Kedron Grange, and finally buy a couple of newspapers and see how much space is taken up by AFL”.
Off Murph went and about a week after he returned Mike Sheahan wrote a story in which he told the kid that he’d heard he had made the trip to Brisbane. Murph was quoted in his response as saying: “They took me to a really nice restaurant and they showed me all the beautiful beaches”, and we thought we were a real chance then.
Connors was at us to make a commitment, but we were loath to do so until we knew where we were going to finish. With six weeks to go in the previous season we were sitting bottom of the ladder when we talked to ‘Buddy’ Franklin and Brett Deledio, but we won three of our last four gamesto finish eleventh and secure pick nine. As it turned out we finished on the bottom in 2005.
We met Marc and his family at a Carlton restaurant. At a separate meeting at his home not long after, we advised Marc that if he agreed not to nominate father/son we would select him at No.1.
Jokingly I said to Marc that whenever Kevin Bartlett calls a game he always refers to the No.1 draft pick. I told Marc: “If you’re prepared to put up with Kevin Bartlett referring to you as ‘the No.1 draft pick of 2005’ for the rest of your life, we’re happy to take you at one”, thinking that Collingwood would take him at two.
We left Marc to make up his mind, he told us “I’ll ring you when I’ve done it” and I was on my way to the Docklands Stadium for the club Best and Fairest when he called. He said “Wayne, I’ve decided I’d like to go to the Blues, you can pick me at No.1”. I told him “the only person I’ll inform tonight will be Stephen Kernahan (the then Carlton Director of Football) and we need to work out how are we going to inform Brisbane. Marc said: “My first call was to Leigh Matthews, I’ve already told him”.
A side story is that we visited Josh Kennedy and ‘Paddy’ Ryder on the Tuesday prior to the draft on the Saturday and suggested we’d probably get one of them. Not long after, Chris Pelchen the then Hawthorn Recruiting Manager rang me to say: “You’ve just wasted a trip to Perth to speak to Kennedy, we’re picking him at three (bearing in mind Carlton also held selection four)” – and it was always presumed that Collingwood, with selection two, would take Xavier Ellis.
At Carlton I remember telling Rod Ashman who was then in player welfare and Denis Pagan: “We’re not going to get Kennedy, we’ll be picking Paddy Ryder, an Indigenous boy from Perth”. In all my time in recruiting I’d never experienced a better home visit than Paddy Ryder’s. There were kids everywhere at the family home, skateboards in the street, basketball and cricket going on, and footies flying everywhere. I remember wondering “How am I going to billet this boy out to a host family from Melbourne after taking him away from this?”, but we convinced ourselves that we could work it out for Paddy.
The draft then got underway and I’m sitting there with my list. I read out Murphy’s name, then Collingwood called Dale Thomas, and I’m thinking “What’s going on here? What about Ellis?”. Before I knew it, Chris Pelchen called Xavier Ellis’s name as I reckon Hawthorn was going to pick Kennedy thinking Ellis would be gone - but it didn’t work out that way. So I’ve looked at my list and the next name is Josh Kennedy, so I just read it out – “Josh Kennedy”. Denis called me on the way back from the draft and said: “I thought we were picking Ryder?” It was a very funny moment.
Marc’s career has had its ups and downs. He was flying in his first year until he came up against Brisbane when he got smashed into the turf and missed the rest of the season, and now he’s on the cusp of 300 games. He’s been an outstanding player in terms of his character and his leadership through a period where Carlton has also experienced its ups and downs.
I appreciate the fact that the football club has contacted me in relation to how the 2005 AFL National Draft unfolded and am happy to reflect on that period at any time.
I still have Murph’s number in my phone. I texted him best wishes for game No.300 and was really humbled that he responded.
I would like to wish Marc and his family all the very best for whatever happens next.