Wallaroo Mahalia Murphy is hopeful an Indigenous rugby star can create a Cathy Freeman-style moment on the grand stage of a home World Cup for women in 2029.
The final countdown is on to the May 12 vote by the World Rugby Council to select the host for the 2029 tournament and the men’s equivalent in 2027.
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For Australia to be green-lighted as the preferred candidate to stage both showpiece events means spin-offs with far-reaching impacts.
Murphy is excited that one of those powerful spin-offs can be Indigenous role models running, passing and scoring tries in the green-and-gold in front of impressionable young eyes in 2029.
“We are back playing Tests on home soil this next week (against Fijiana and Japan). It’s definitely awesome to think of that on the scale of a Rugby World Cup in 2029 with the kids and new players it would attract to play our game,” Murphy said.
The dashing fullback-winger, who scored five tries for the NSW Waratahs in a single match against the Melbourne Rebels in Super W, is a proud First Nations woman. She was schooled in western Sydney and her family roots are in Walgett in the remote north-west of NSW.
“There is definitely raw talent in rural NSW and Queensland and all across Australia if we get out in those communities and get eyes on the talent to see for ourselves,” Murphy said.
“You can’t be what you can’t see, right, so to be able to turn on the TV and watch the Wallaroos play this week and at a home World Cup can hopefully inspire some of those youngsters into rugby.
“Cathy Freeman inspired me when I was young and into athletics at school. She is still someone I look up to even though I now play rugby because of her work in communities which is what I love to do as well.”
Murphy, 28, was only six when Freeman captured the imagination of the nation and her own with that stunning 400m gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Already, Murphy is part of something big with the Wallaroos squad training for Friday night’s Test against Fijiana at Suncorp Stadium and next Tuesday’s clash against Japan at Bond University on the Gold Coast.
No Australian rugby team has ever had stronger Indigenous representation.
The Wallabies side which beat South Africa 39-20 in Sydney in 2011 had contributions from four First Nations players in Kurtley Beale, Saia and Anthony Faingaa and Matt Hodgson.
In this Wallaroos squad, Murphy, Grace Kemp, Lori Cramer, Madi Schuck and Lillyann Mason-Spice all have proud Indigenous heritage.
To have the chance to wear the Wallaroos’ first-ever First Nations jersey against Japan is recognition on the next level.
“I get chills just thinking about it. It’s awesome to be able to represent Australia and represent our culture like this running out onto the field,” Murphy said.
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She was a judge on the 29 jersey design entries in 2019. COVID disruptions and a pause on home Tests has delayed until now the rollout of the striking jersey design created by Seantelle Walsh, a NoongarYorga artist from Perth.
“The design represents three generations of women coming from different areas to play rugby. There’s also the ongoing journey and the strength of the women represented,” Murphy explained.
“Just to be able to share and educate more people on our culture is a special thing.”
The public unveiling of the First Nations jersey was made at the Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre on the Gold Coast on Monday.
The Wallabies made a stunning impact by wearing their Indigenous jersey at the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
“I would just love that to be the case for the Wallaroos in 2029,” Murphy said.