DARYL Powell, the Castleford coach, has spoken of his sadness at the death of his former Leeds boss Graham Murray.
The popular Australian coached the Rhinos in 1998 and 1999, sparking a transformation in their fortunes and landing them their first major trophy in 21 years, when they won the Challenge Cup in 1999.
He also coached Illawarra Steelers, Hunter Mariners, Sydney Roosters and North Queensland Cowboys in Australia, as well as Fiji in the 1995 World Cup and New South Wales in State of Origin in 2006 and 2007.
Murray was also head coach of the Australian women’s team, but his ill-health prevented him from coaching them in this year’s World Cup.
This year he was due to coach Brisbane-based Wynnum Manly Seagulls in the Intrust Super Cup, but a heart attack in March prevented him from doing so. He suffered a further cardiac arrest on 17 July, from which he failed to recover.
His life support machine was switched off on Sunday afternoon (Brisbane time) and he was pronounced dead later in the evening.
He was 58 and is survived by his wife Amanda and daughter Kara.
“He was an immense bloke and I’m absolutely gutted,” said Powell, who made his Rhinos debut against Warrington in April 1998 in Murray’s first Super League match.
“You could tell from the public reaction to his heart attacks that he was so well loved both here and in Australia. He was such an honest and thoughtful person.
“He was an instigator in the change in mentality at the Rhinos, and his ability to pull a group a people together was fantastic. I learned a massive amount from him in that regard.
“He also coached me in reserve grade at Balmain, so I knew him well.
“Wherever he went in Rugby League – and he had some big jobs – he was loved. He had a cranky side but he was just a great character.
“Whenever I meet people from that Leeds team we speak so highly of him, and my wife remembers him well for how he was with the wives and the families.
“I last saw him in 2009 when we had a ten-year reunion after winning the Challenge Cup, and he was just the same then with a great sense of humour.
“It was great to see that team back together.
“He made the team greater than the sum of its parts. He was very respectful and expected everyone to be respectful. He changed the team dynamic because it needed to be done, and he produced the toughest team in the competition.”
Murray gave a debut to Chev Walker at just 16 in 1999, and the young centre scored twice against Salford in a 50-16 win.
Walker tweeted on Sunday: “Gutted to hear Graham Murray has passed away. I will be forever grateful that he gave me my chance.”
Gary Hetherington, the club’s chief executive, said: “It is devastating news and so sad to have lost Graham, who will be fondly remembered by all our fans, players and staff who knew him from his time with us.
“He was very popular and so professional in everything he did. He was an outstanding coach and mentor and he cared about all aspects of Rugby League. The game has lost a great servant and personality and our thoughts are with Amanda and Kara.”
By RICHARD de la RIVIERE