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Northland's Try-Scoring Sensation lands on feet at the Crusaders

Northland's Try-Scoring Sensation lands on feet at the Crusaders

All BlacksDecember 12, 2023

Finishing among the top try scorers in the Bunnings NPC is one assured way of attracting Super Rugby Pacific squad interest, and that was something Northland wing Heremaia Murray was grateful for when called up by the Crusaders.

The Super Rugby environment was familiar to him as he spent time in and out of the Blues camp over the last two years.

But after scoring eight tries, one behind the leading try scorer Bay of Plenty's Manaaki Selby-Rickit, for a resurgent Northland Taniwha side, Murray said he was blown away to get the opportunity with the Crusaders.

"It was unreal; I didn't expect to get a full crack down here."

Fresh to the Crusaders' environment as pre-season preparation started recently, he feels happy getting to know everyone and starting the preparation for the season ahead.

It has been a longer journey for Murray than most players have nowadays.

While he first came to light in making his first-class debut for Auckland in 2021, he was from Te Hāpua, the most northerly settlement in New Zealand, and Ahipara. He attended boarding school at Auckland Grammar, where his trip around the various positions in the game finally ended on the wing.

Much of his early years were spent in the forwards, especially on the side of the scrum or at lock. But when his Grammar 1st XV coach, Dave Askew, saw him playing in a touch rugby game, he said, "I don't know what you are doing in the forward pack."

And from that time, he has played on the wing. Speed was not his forte when playing in the pack.

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"I wouldn't say I was the fastest kid, maybe in my later years – from my last year in high school. But I wasn't the slowest either.

"Once I left school, I didn't grow as much as some of the bigger boys, so it just worked out for the best."

But that move to the wing gave him an opportunity he wanted to make the most of.

Murray said he had several good coaches while he was in Auckland, and apart from Askew, Dan Bowden was another who had helped his growth.

"And, in the last couple of years, doing a bit of work with Mark [Tele'a] when I was in and out of the Blues a bit, and learning what he does. It was just a case of observing what those guys do."

Murray acknowledged that being part of the Northland side helped his confidence grow on the wing.

"It makes it so much easier when you want to represent your home, and where you're from and your people and the jersey you grew up watching."

Playing rugby full-time was always a goal, but it took time for him.

"I'm almost 24 now, and this is my first proper gig. I've been doing it all outside of this, working and trying to study. I've had a taste of full-time footy here and there. But nothing compares to this kind of lifestyle.

"When you're working from six to six every day, this is just what you want to do."

Murray bought a truck and found the odd contract to do, but because of the life experience that produced, he appreciates the rugby opportunity he has all the more.

"I broke my collarbone towards the end of the Super Rugby season, about 10 weeks before the NPC. My first game back was the first round of the NPC, so it was perfect timing."

Eight tries later, he has secured an opportunity to live his dream of full-time rugby.

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