Coach Murphy provides words of Wisdom
“I was playing multiple sports, but never found that sport that I was drawn to, like it was ingrained in my DNA,” said Coach Phil Murphy.
Being able to play on a rugby team ignited the spark and passion Murphy carries to this day.
“I remember coming off the field my very first time playing and talking to my mom and saying, ‘I found the sport that I love’.”
For Murphy, rugby was more than just a game. He represented the Ontario team from the under-16 age group up until the end of high school.
Murphy’s passion for rugby led him to Belfast, Ireland, where he studied for two years.
“I was the first Canadian to play for an Irish schoolboys team.” Murphy said.
“The expectations at the beginning was that I wasn’t very good. There was an article about ‘How is a Canadian kid on the Irish team, should he be here?’”
Murphy used the words to fuel the fire inside of him.
“You need to find out what drives you. Behind every great athlete there’s a burning desire and passion, and mine was actually born out of fear. Prove to them that you should be here, prove to them that you are good enough.”
Murphy did such, gaining attention from the Canadian National Team.
“One of my teammates for Canada was leaving a team in France for a different team. The owner of the team said they were looking for a player, and an up-and-coming number eight who’s not going to cost much,” Murphy said, recollecting his journey.
“I was touring in Tonga at the time with Canada, and we used to get a weekly per diem, $20 a day or something. At the end of it, I ended up having to spend my entire per diem on faxes from Tonga to France. That’s when I negotiated my first contract. It cost me about $120 in faxes!”
Murphy would go on to make 19 appearances for the Canadian National Team and played for teams in France, England and Italy before retiring in 2009.
Naturally, Murphy started coaching.
“I always knew that I wanted to get into coaching, I wanted to help Rugby Canada to continue to move forward. I wanted to give back.”
The former pro joined the Laurier team back in 2017, and was named head coach of the program in the 2022 campaign, which ended up being a historic year. The team was awarded their first ever OUA silver medal, and qualified for Nationals.
“I challenge the guys. My brand of rugby has no special key ingredient. It’s 100% what the guys do on the field. I challenge them physically and mentally.”
Paired with former Canadian rugby athlete Jamie MacKenzie, both coaches have a near 45 international caps, and a plethora of league caps.
“We challenge the guys, and they’re the ones who step up, who never back down from any challenges. I talk about ‘stealing your mind’ so when we get into the hard stuff, I need them to know that when their mind is telling them their body is done, their body can do more.”
Seeing athletes come and go is part of being a university coach, and Murphy makes sure each player he comes across leaves Laurier as a better man.
“To me, it’s more important for someone who looks back at their time at Laurier and says ‘Maybe I am the person I am today because of Coach Phil’. I don’t just want to do the bare minimum, I want to get ahead.”
Murphy inspires the next generation of rugby players with his two sons, who accompany him on the sidelines.
“It’s a great teaching tool for them to see how our sideline is versus the other sideline because I do run a tight ship when it comes to what my sideline can and cannot do,” said Murphy.
“My son loves hearing the guys. They are fantastic with him, they’ll give him high fives, shake his hand, and thank him for his contribution.”
Murphy explained his team made his son a t-shirt for being the “best ball-boy in the OUA” that they all signed.
“[My son] has it in his room. That’s the thing I’m trying to build, to show them how it’s such a little thing to do, but means the world to other people.”
The team also gives back to the community through donating food and clothing to the Optimism Women’s Shelter.
After beating the Waterloo Warriors in the OUA quarterfinals, Murphy and his squad move on to face the Guelph Gryphons.
“If you look too far ahead, then you can trip over what’s right in front of you. I always talk about worrying about the journey, because if you do that, the destination will take care of itself,” said Murphy.
“The guys punch above their weight, that’s what we do. Most teams are bigger than us, but there’s no team that hits harder than us.”