Saturday, May 24, 2008

Murray Deserves Some Credit

No happy ending for Murray!

The events of this week ended any and all speculation about an early departure of Cowboys coach Graeme Murray as he decided to leave on his own terms. Only a select few will ever have had the luxury of experiencing what truly went on as the entire picture unfolded and I am not one of those few.

However, I would like to talk about is the difference I feel Murray has made to the Cowboys franchise since he took over from Murray Hurst.

Before Murray’s arrival in 2002, the Cowboys had never been considered a finals participant, let alone a genuine championship threat. Murray has consistently raised the level of expectation each and every year to a point where simply making the finals is no longer good enough. Winning your way through a few games of the finals is the new bar.

In Murray’s case, did making that Grand Final in 2005 and falling one game shy of repeating this feat in 2007 lead to the formation unrealistic expectations? I think we have to consider that possibility.

Look at the rosters Murray has successfully made his way to the finals with. Let’s face it, he was able to find some way to bring out the best in some of these guys. Take someone like Ray Cashmere for example. This guy could not get a run anywhere 18 months ago. Under Murray, he has developed into one of the Cowboys most consistent performers.

Luke O’Donnell has raised his level of play to a point where his name is regularly thrown out for an Origin or Australian jumper, assuming he is healthy. Before he made the move North, he struggled to find a spot week in and week out with the West Tigers.

Last but not least, we have to consider Jonathon Thurston, the Bulldog castaway now considered the world’s best player.

Don’t get me wrong, a player has to have talent to succeed at the level we are talking about. It just appears to me that many of the current Cowboy players have come to the club in hopes of becoming a regular first grade player. Murray seems to have a knack for taking these types of guys and getting them to, what many would consider, ‘over-achieve’ as a team.

Whether you look back at Graeme Murray’s track record with Illawarra, Sydney Roosters or now the Cowboys, Murray has always left the place in better shape then when he arrived. And you have to look beyond one year’s win-loss record to get my point.

As a fierce competitor myself, I fully comprehend the concept that championships are a professional organization’s bottom line. But trust me, I also know that the odds of achieving our ultimate goal are tough. In fourteen years I have been on top of the world only once and been a bride’s maid twice, and I would be considered on of the lucky ones.

If you can’t win titles for your club year after year, the very least you can hope for as a coach is that you keep the momentum moving in a forward direction,…keep making progress. Murray succeeded at this for the Cowboys until recent times and, as I mentioned earlier, only few are privy to what occurred in these times of which so many of us have speculated on.

It is a shame to see this partnership end the way it has. It feels to me like Murray went out without getting the recognition he deserved for the good times. I am hopeful that when the dust settles Graeme Murray will find his place in Cowboys history where he will be appreciated fittingly for his time as coach of the Cowboys.

You can find my article in the Townsville Bulletin every Saturday.

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