A missed opportunity. One that slipped through the net. Sad.
None of that is strong enough.
It is a tragedy for Rugby Union that Cameron Murray has re-signed with the Rabbitohs until 2028, for so many reasons.
For starters, among all the handwringing about team selection for Rugby World Cup 2023, one fact that hasn’t been spoken about enough is the absence in Australia of an inside centre good enough for the international stage.
Samu Kerevi was that, he was World Class. But after doing his ACL while inexplicably playing Sevens, he hasn’t been the same.
Even if Kerevi can find that kind of form again, it doesn’t feel like he has a lot of rugby left in him.
That journeyman Lalakai Foketi is the back-up and James O’Connor seemingly next in line at 12 makes Rugby’s failure to grab Cameron Murray all the more disappointing.
Earlier this year, All Black star Aaron Smith told the Ice Project Podcast:
‘He’d be a gun. Cam Murray, his schoolboy highlights are pretty gangster and [Angus] Crichton is the same, big centres, ball runners, offload, stay in the play for the whole time. They’re your workhorses but they’ve got that bang, that’s what you want your midfield to be.’
Angus Bell, who for mine was the best forward on the field against France on Sunday, went further when talking about Murray, his fellow Newington alumni:
“When I was at school, I was in Year 9 and I was watching him play First XV in our school system, and he was the best player on the field by a country mile every single time he took the field… The position of inside centre suits him so well – he’s not huge, he’s very evasive, unreal ball carrier, the courage is 100 out of 100. He would be, I reckon, the best inside centre in the world.”
Perhaps Angus Bell was signalling Australian Rugby HQ.
Anybody who watched the Wallabies lose to France will recognise that for all Bell’s work in tight, all the claret and fillet, the Wallaby midfield was carved up like foie gras on brioche.
Sadly, there is no emerging Tim Horan or even Elton Flatley. Not even a school boy prodigy on the horizon.
At a stretch, if Tom Lynagh is good enough to be the Wallaby 10, Carter Gordon might be a candidate to play 12. But that’s a big ‘if’ followed by a ‘might’.
And it equals a big problem for Eddie Jones as he shamelessly positions the Wallabies for the future.
Angus Bell, Tom Hooper and Fraser McReight together with Carter Gordon and Mark Nawaqanitawase are already improving with every game.
Max Jorgensen, one who wasn’t lost to League, will join them as a regular international soon enough.
But there is nobody to fill the vital gap at 12.
Cameron Murray would have been perfect and it’s tragic it hasn’t happened.
That a young guy who turned down captaining NSW U18 Origin so he could play Union for his school should have been lost to Union at all is a travesty.
That the same thing happened with Pat Carrigan after he captained Gregory Terrace just shows how negligent administrators have been for the last 10 years – no, 20 years.
But I digress.
If reports are accurate that Murray’s extension is a 4 year, $4.6million deal, Australian Rugby should have beaten it.
And before someone takes a pop about ‘grassroots’ and ‘investing in the game’, how do you that when you’re losing? When the game is so desperate for airtime, Eddie has to ‘eyebrow bash’ every media conference?
How do you explain to a 16yo schoolboy star that he should stick with Rugby when Rugby didn’t stick with Cameron Murray, when it couldn’t even attract him back with the calendar of events we have coming over the next 4 years?
There is also an undeniable leadership quandary in the Wallaby set up. Five Wallaby captains in 18 months.
Even if Skelton is the answer, and the jury is out on that, it’s a short term answer that probably won’t be around in 2025, let alone 2027.
Tate McDermott is an impressive young man but by no means guaranteed a starting spot next month let alone next year or the one after that.
Cameron Murray was a future Wallaby captain, if ever I saw one. Composed, experienced and a hard worker.
One of the rare footballing leaders who threads the needle between being overly vocal and leading by example.
It is a damn shame Cameron Murray will bid farewell to Redfern only to arrive at Maroubra where he’ll stay until 2028, when he’ll be 30 years old.
That a Lions series, home World Cup and a probable Wallaby captaincy could not tempt him back to Union shows just how far the game’s star has fallen in this country.