Monday 19 March 2018

Murphy's self-exile questions direction of women's rugby

Jenny Murphy. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Jenny Murphy. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

It says a lot about Jenny Murphy's views on the current state of Irish women's rugby that a newly-appointed coach, who she has previously worked with and knows well, wasn't enough to deter her from taking a year out of the game.

Whatever way you dress it up, a 28-year-old in the prime of her career walking away from the international set-up does not look good, yet Murphy feels that it is necessary if she is to fall back in love with rugby.

Murphy suffered a second concussion in November, three months after she picked one up during the World Cup, which saw her take an extended period on the sidelines.

She missed the interpro series but it was assumed that she would be back in the mix for the Six Nations but, instead, she has opted to make herself unavailable for selection.

Having already passed the normal return-to-play protocols, Murphy's concussion issues did not play a part in her decision; instead she simply could not find the motivation for a fresh start.

The disastrous World Cup campaign was a humbling experience for everyone involved but Murphy was one of the few who emerged with credibility.

So often the heartbeat of the Irish backline over the last couple of years, the barnstorming centre leaves behind a huge void, and in the grander scheme of things raises more questions about the direction that women's rugby in this country is going.

"After the disappointment of the World Cup and we had our break, I just found that the motivation to get back on the horse wasn't where it should be," Murphy admitted.

"I love playing for Ireland. It's a privilege, but you have to really want to be there 100 per cent.

"It's not fair. I would feel like I would really be taking up a space for someone else who would kill for that spot.

"I've been playing since 2012 and I just needed a refresher to recharge the batteries and, I guess, fall back in love with the game."

Adam Griggs is the man tasked with changing their fortunes and he looks like a smart appointment, as does Mike Ross who was confirmed as scrum coach.

Murphy was very vocal in voicing her disgust at the IRFU for advertising the new head coach position as a part-time role, especially after Tom Tierney had become the first Ireland women's coach to get the job on a full-time basis. That disillusionment still lingers.

"It was disappointing," she insisted. "All the players are fully amateur and we work full-time and also pretty much train full-time. We were hoping that our coach would come in fully focusing on that as a job, because you need to nowadays.

"If you're looking at England, New Zealand, all these top countries, you're hoping that we would follow the same model because that's where the success is and that's where the women's game is going.

"We want to stay ahead of the curve so when you don't see that happening, it's quite frustrating."

Given that Murphy is one of the household names in Irish women's rugby, even from a brand point of view, the optics are not good.

Having worked with her in Leinster, Griggs knows how much of a quality operator Murphy is and while he attempted to sway her to play in the Six Nations, she had already made up her mind.

Hiring "Once I made my decision, prior to the IRFU hiring someone on a part-time basis, I had already said, 'No, I'm making the right decision for me.'

"Hopefully me stepping away for a year and focusing on other things, I'll come back into the rugby fold, if they'll have me, and be better for the team in the long-run.

"We underperformed (at World Cup), didn't play nice rugby. We let ourselves and the jersey down. It was deflating and I just couldn't find the motivation.

"There was also the slog of... We're entirely amateur and I need to look after myself going forward. I didn't want to live like a student and keep doing this. I want to do everything 100 per cent but I also need to mind myself."

Murphy has taken on a role with a new start-up venture PepTalk, a technology-driven well-being company, while she is also hoping to try her hand at other sports.

"I was looking at boxing or something like that," she added. "In the back of my head, it's always, 'Will this help my rugby end goal?' And I think it would. I have to start now but I'm still focused on the club (Old Belvedere) at the moment.

"I want to explore other sports for the year; try something different and hopefully if I'm playing well enough next year, I'll put my hand up for selection.

"It's not a permanent step away, it's more a sabbatical."

Irish Independent

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