‘It was the first time I have cried in front of the boys and in front of Franco’ – Murphy Walker

Murphy Walker is looking forward positively after an injury-ravaged 16 months. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Murphy Walker is looking forward positively after an injury-ravaged 16 months. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

WHEN Murphy Walker is asked to reflect on the near 17 months which elapsed between his two most recent Glasgow Warriors appearances, he replies almost wistfully: “Yeah, 512 days it worked out as.”

Not that he was counting!

All things considered, the 24-year-old prop is impressively level-headed when looking back at the tortuous route his fledgling pro-career has followed in recent seasons, but he admits that when he suffered his fourth significant injury set-back during that period, back in December, it was enough to move him to tears in front of his team-mates and head coach Franco Smith. 


Scottish Rugby Writers’ Club Player of the Season shortlists announced

Edinburgh confirm list of seven summer leavers

Duhan van der Merwe: “I would fancy our chances at Scotstoun”


It’s not like Walker has been completely out of action. He picked up a couple of ‘A’ game appearances, and also a Scotland cap during their World Cup warm-up schedule last summer, but whenever it looked like a long-awaited Warriors reappearance might be on the cards, lady luck would have her wicked way with him.

It all started a few weeks after making his senior Scotland bow with two bench appearances against Fiji and Argentina during the 2022 Autumn Nations Cup. Things were going well back at club level with regular game-time coming his way, before a neck injury in mid-December was initially supposed to lead to a fairly short spell on the sidelines.

“I fought back [to match fitness] at literally this time last year, but at that point we were looking for continuity in the squad and obviously it’s tough to put your hand up when you are getting to finals time and the boys are playing well,” he recalls. “So, I played a couple of ‘A’ games, and made the World Cup training camp [although wasn’t selected in the final 33-man squad for the tournament], but didn’t get back into the Warriors team.

“Then I tore my calf during pre-season, and I was a week away from being fit to play against Leinster [on the opening weekend of this URC campaign in mid-October] when I tore my quad in a line-out session, which is kind of unheard of in rugby, it is more of a footballer’s injury.

“Then, eight weeks after that, I was a week away from being fit to play against Munster, so they wanted to get me some game-time against Edinburgh ‘A’, and literally 15 minutes into that I did the meniscus on my right knee, and that was genuinely one of the toughest moments of my life.

“I think it was the first time I have cried in front of the boys and in front of Franco in the physio room, so that was definitely one of my toughest moments.”

 

 

Given that Walker also missed the entirety of the 2020-21 season with a torn hamstring, it is little wonder that he felt at his wit’s end.

If it had been one long-term injury, then he could have managed his expectations, but instead he was constantly having the rug pulled from under in. The flip-side is that all the injuries were different, which points more towards bad luck rather than an underlying issue, so after the initial disappointment and frustration washed through him, he was able to put the setbacks into perspective.

“The support system at Glasgow is amazing,” he says. “They have everything in line if you need to speak to someone. Personally, the boys got around me pretty well and my family as well.

“And deep down I know that injuries are part of the job so it’s something I’ve just got roll with. I kept saying to myself that: ‘I am doing my dream job which I love, so as much as the injuries are frustrating, I can’t really complain that much’.

“My physio, Michael Clark, was amazing for the second and third time round, by setting me little goals here and there which kept me driving on to get back fit.”

 

 

The Dundonian – who captained Strahallan to Scottish Schools’ Cup success in 2017 and who is one of the few props to have come all the way through the Scottish system to reach full international level in recent years – admits to experiencing conflicting emotions ahead of last weekend’s long-awaited comeback against the Bulls in Pretoria.

“It was a strange day because I didn’t know how to feel before the game, it was almost like a debut again, I didn’t know whether to get nervous, excited, scared …” he explains.

“But it felt good to get out there. It was obviously a tough place to go, 28 degrees with altitude. Bulls at home is always going to be a tough ask. But for a first game back, it was good to get chucked in there and I felt decent while I was playing.”

He lasted only 30 minutes before Smith replaced his entire front-row in what the coach insisted was as a pre-planned move given the lack of recent game-time Walker, Jamie Bhatti and Grant Stewart had under their belts.

“Let’s just say Franco has got plenty of plans, so you can read into that what you wish,” was Walker’s rather cryptic take.

Generally speaking, he was pretty happy with how the Bulls game went, and having recently signed a two-year contract extension, Walker now has every reason to look forward positively towards the end of this season (next up is the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday) and beyond.

“That first game back, I was very surprised that I was playing, [although] I was fully ready to go if selected. And now that I’ve got that game under the belt, I just can’t wait for the next few games coming up, especially with the play-offs coming up. I haven’t played in a knock-out game for years – probably schoolboy would be the last time – so that really excites me, as it does the rest of the boys.”

“I am obviously very grateful that Glasgow wanted to keep me on. It was kind of a no-brainer for me. After the last couple of years I felt within myself that I owe something, not just to the coaches here but the fans and also the boys, to show that I want to contribute.

“When Glasgow are at top of the log – at number one – and we are going to be competing for trophies every year, I think it was a pretty easy decision.

“Now that I am back, all I want to do is play well for Glasgow and show everyone that I am not just here to be sat on the sidelines in the injury club.”

Beyond that, there is Scotland’s tour to the Americas this summer, when Zander Fagerson is likely to be rested and potential replacements for the retiring WP Nel as back-up tight-head in the national set-up will have a chance to state their cases. Not surprisingly given his recent history, Walker has chosen not to put his eggs in that basket at this point in time.

“It would be amazing to get that recognition, but I’ve only played half an hour in the past year so it is nothing I am expecting,” he says.

“All I want to do with this re-signing is get back fit and get back playing well for Glasgow, and if Scotland come calling then that’s just a bonus – that’s just a cherry on top of the cake.”


Scottish Rugby Writers’ Club Player of the Season shortlists announced

About David Barnes 3956 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Please be respectful in your replies. Abusive language is automatically blocked. Your email address will not be published.


*