Swapping the wicket keeping gloves for an AFL dream

CRICKET in the summer, footy in the winter. It’s pretty simple isn’t it?

For talented 17-year-old Nathan Murphy, it was a realistic experience with one having to give way in his final year of schooling.

This time last year, Murphy was gearing up for the wicket-keeping job in the Vic Metro Under 19 team at December’s National Under 19 Championships.

The right hand batsman and Brighton Grammar cricket captain clunked seven catches in the tournament, after months earlier scoring a fine 84 not out against Western Australia in the quarter-finals of the Under 17 carnival.

Twelve months on and the dual-sport athlete looms as a likely first round selection at Friday’s AFL Draft, appealing to clubs after a superb APS school football season for Brighton Grammar and in the latter part of the year for TAC Cup side Sandringham Dragons.

AFL has been a back thought in the 188cm Murphy, with various representative cricket programs taking centre stage.

Murphy even got to wear the coveted green and gold for the Australian Under 16 team – scoring three consecutive half-centuries at the top of the order in 2015.

“I got presented with the baggy green from Ryan Harris, it was probably one of my biggest honours to date,” Murphy said.

The busy journey through the representative programs kept Murphy on his toes, with sleep being one of the few sacrificies for the Year 12 student.

“I was in Monday and Wednesday’s mornings in at 6.30am at the ‘G, going to the gym, then staying back and having a hit,” he said.

A close bond with Will Sutherland has been shared throughout their cricketing journey, with Sutherland picking cricket over football – a battle which played out in front of the media throughout the middle of the year.

“Doing the gym sessions we were talking about it, I guess everyone was asking us but when we did see each other we wanted to get our minds off it,” Murphy said.

“I was pretty lucky that I flew under the radar but his decision was a bit forced. The message for us was that it was up to us and that we can’t let others decide for us,

“I can’t complain about what Cricket Victoria offered me, the coaches Greg Shipperd, Joffa (Jarrad Loughman), all of them have been amazing for me, it was pretty full on. Even this year I was training in June/July with the Victoria 2nd XI future squad.“

2017 AFL DRAFT PROFILE: NATHAN MURPHY

Murphy, 17, last year was part of Brighton Grammar’s ‘three-peat’ of APS premierships, juggling his cricket and football commitments throughout the year.

From spending mornings in at the MCG, afternoons in the classroom, before further football training after school, time management was a key skill drilled into Murphy.

“People say it must be hard to juggle both sports, but when you love them both so much, it’s pretty easy to do both and find time for them,” he said.

“It was an awesome challenge and I was able to be taught a few lessons in time management and stuff like that.”

Brighton’s coach former Adelaide & Fitzroy coach Robert Shaw has been a big influence on the talented teenager.

“He’s been awesome for me, him (Shaw) and probably manager Pickers (Liam Pickering) & Pitch (James Pitcher) also as well,” Murphy said.

“Both Pickers and Shawry have had experience with cricket and football and their main motto was to keep doing both sports for as long as possible because I’m passionate about both, so they definitely didn’t make me chose and no program made me chose – it was up to me, as at the end of the game you want to do the sport that you love the most. “

It was however one sunny day in May down at Geelong Grammar which changed everything. Returning from concussion sustained in Brighton’s round 2 clash with eventual premiers Haileybury, Murphy booted a season-high seven goals, matched up on fellow first round draft candidate Jarrod Brander at times.

“I started at centre half back during the start of year and then Shawry chucked me up forward. I kind of had no real expectation forward because I probably had never played a full on game forward, I didn’t have a lot to expect and I just went out there to play football,” Murphy said.

“That day just changed it all, you get bit of interest from AFL clubs after that game. But you know you don’t take it too serious because a lot of kids get a bit of interest from AFL clubs, but I guess it kind of got a bit serious when you get these calls in mid June and July.”

Collingwood were once such club to show interest, visiting Murphy’s Highett home in July.

“Collingwood were the first one so you don’t know what to expect, so you crap yourself a bit I guess, Matty Rendell rocks up and he’s up to the roof bringing in the camera and you don’t know what you’re in for,” Murphy said.

“It was just exciting and an honour that they wanted to come around to my house and I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity.”

Nathan Murphy in action for Brighton Grammar, with Collingwood recruiters Adam Shepard and Matthew Rendell watching on. (Photo: Supplied)

Averaging 16 disposals and four marks for the season, there is healthy debate as to where the medium tall will end up at the next level, having been utilised at both ends in every team in 2017.

“I’m still trying to work it out myself… it was the first season where I went forward, but I played all my career as a junior in the midfield, but Shawry moved me into the backline last year,” Murphy said.

“I feel most comfortable down there and feel like I have more control of the game, but I’ve got a lot to learn up forward and would like to get that continued exposure to the midfield.

“Endurance is one of my strengths and I think I’d be able to play anywhere.”

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