By BEN HUNTER
An unexpected meeting in the middle of trekking the Kokoda Trail dramatically altered the direction of Box Hill forward Billy Murphy’s career – and cemented the path to a Queensland destination.
Before Murphy had made the decision to become a Hornet, he was on the verge of signing with one of the numerous VFL suitors until a chance encounter in Kokoda saw Aspley skyrocket to his first preference for his playing future.
As a 21st birthday present, Murphy and his father conquered the Kokoda Trail, a chance for Murphy to reflect on his past and weigh up his future, whilst also pushing himself physically.
“We were looking forward to the challenge both physically and mentally… Kokoda believe it or not made the decision. I came back with a different mindset,’” Murphy told neafl.com.au.
That mindset switch largely came when he met Luke Glacken of Inspire Health en route. Glacken had recently overseen one of his trainers, Brendan Sainsbury, appointed as Aspley’s high performance coach.
“He was telling me how he’d just given ‘Sains’ the job at Aspley Hornets, and I said, ‘You’re kidding! That’s where I’m looking at probably playing my footy next year.”
It was from this conversation on the trail that essentially sold Murphy on the idea of a move north.
“Having a chat with him about Brisbane and Queensland and the lifestyle that entailed… He really had a good, positive influence over my decision.”
Within a working week of his return, Murphy was touring the facilities and meeting the coaches at Graham Road and could immediately sense it was somewhere he wanted to be.
“I like how Webby’s (coach Daniel Webster) sort of a younger coach, I think he can tap into the younger generation really, really well,” he said.
“Aspley as a football club, in terms of their relentless attacking sort of attitude; I thought their style of football would really suit me as a player.”
Left out of the Box Hill Hawks’ successful VFL grand final victory in late 2018, the livewire small forward felt he needed a fresh start.
Now, he’s an exciting Aspley Hornet with a hunger for success. The 22-year-old had his first hit-out as a Hornet in a practice match against the Lions, and while his team couldn’t get the chocolates, he showed both fans and coaches, exactly why he was recruited.
“He’s exciting,” explained new Aspley head coach Daniel Webster after the match.
“He adds a bit and I’m excited to see where he goes this year.”
Kicking the opening goal of the match and having a hand in others, Murphy’s skill and speed were a delight to watch.
But despite his eye-catching performance, he admits he’s still adapting to the new conditions.
“The pace and style of game is different to VFL football, but I think I adapted quite well,” he said.
“VFL is a very contested style game and the grounds are a little bit smaller, I found NEAFL was more of a running game.”
Noting the game style has it’s differences, the Queensland heat poses its own challenges to the Victorian native.
“The weather difference is extreme… I’m used to freezing cold nights at Box Hill City Oval,” he explained.
“(In our) first training session I couldn’t actually hold on to the footy; I thought there was Vaseline on it or something.”
And while it may have been his first time playing in an Aspley guernsey, he’s no stranger to the brown and gold.
He played his junior footy in the brown and gold stripes of the Kew Comets and returned to them as a Box Hill Hawk after a stint with the Northern Knights.
Murphy began his four-year run with the Hawks as an 18-year-old, and by his third year was a regular in the senior side, before looking for other opportunities during the 2018 season.
It’s important to note how big of an impact this decision to move north has impacted Murphy.
He left behind a successful fitness business, his family and potential playing opportunities elsewhere in the VFL.
However, he’s settled now on the Sunshine Coast near Mooloolaba and is optimistic as to what’s ahead for him and his new club.
“I think we have the list and the potential to get to the pinnacle which is to win the flag. But at a bare minimum we just go out and compete to the best of our abilities every single week,” he said.
“(The) focus for me is sort of just to tap into my best football and to develop other areas of my game. I’ve played the majority as a small forward the last couple years.
“I love kicking goals, and I think if I can average a couple of goals a game for Aspley and play my role as a player that’d be awesome.
“I think I’m going to move up the ground a little bit more and play more midfield which I’m looking forward to.”
Asked about his aspirations for the future, his response was pleasingly straightforward.
“The end goal is obviously to play league footy… but whatever level it is, I just want to play at the highest level I can, for as long as my body allows me to, and I guess we’ll see what happens.”
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