Kevin Murphy—PNGRFL stalwart: Ephaya DSamuel
Kevin came to PNG in the late 1960s as a young kiap and served in the West Sepik Province. He was a contemporary of the late Sir Barry Holloway. He left the kiap service and joined the Education Department as a primary school teacher.
“I first met him in 1970 when he was teaching at the Demonstration School at Goroka Teachers’ College and I was at Hagen High School,” close friend Hugh Greer said in his message when breaking the news to this paper on Friday.
“We got together and formed a combined Highlands school boy rugby league side and took them down to Lae to compete in the PNG trials to select a team to tour NSW. These were the days of barefoot Rugby League,” Greer said.
Kevin then moved over to Vocational Schools and was manager of Agarabi Vocational Centre in 1975 when Greer went to Aiyura to complete the building of the National High School.
“We worked together in the Kainantu Rugby League and in 1976 Kevin was the secretary of the Highlands Zone Rugby League and I was the president”, Greer recalled.
Kevin maintained his active involvement with Rugby League throughout all his time in PNG and in 2003 was awarded an OBE for services to the game. He moved into the private sector and worked at many jobs including Rothmans and Consort Express Lines. He also worked at the Goroka National Sports Institute for several years, on minimal conditions, helping to develop Rugby League in PNG.
Greer said: “His last job was with me in Niugini Oil when I employed him to run the Mount Hagen branch and, while still working there in 2008, he urgently travelled to Cairns for medical treatment.”
Kevin was diabetic and unfortunately his right leg was amputated in 2009 as a result. While convalescing in Cairns, his wife Wendy died of cancer. This was a huge blow to his health and life style and Kevin was not able to return to PNG to work. After almost a year in Cairns, he moved to Tamworth where one of his sons settled him into a home.
“Kevin could not stop talking about PNG and Rugby League: it was his life,” Greer said. “He knew his health was not good but continued to enjoy life.”
Last weekend he headed home to Orange, sadly, to attend the funeral of a young relative who had died in a motorbike accident. While in Orange, in the bosom of his family, with his sons around him, he had a massive heart attack and died.
“I met all Kevin’s extended family while he was hospitalised in Cairns and saw the wonderful family he came from. Being Irish Catholic, it was of course a large family,” he said.
Greer said Kevin’s contribution to rugby league in PNG is unequalled by anyone but I’m sorry to say many did not appreciate the passion, commitment, money and time he put into the game.
“The current state of the game was a massive disappointment for Kevin, as it is for me,” he said.
Another close family friend John Numapo when contacted said one of Kevin’s sons, Daniel, rang on Friday morning to advise him of Kevin’s death.
“I was shocked when Daniel called because my only son is named after Kevin and we are very close.” Numapo added that two of Kevin’s three sons, including Daniel, were named after prominent Papua New Guineans. “His second-born son is Daniel Sabumei Murphy, named after former member for Unggai/Bena and Ben Sabumei’s father Sabumei Kofikai, and the third son is named Anthony Kilage Murphy, after former Governor General, late Sir Ignatius Kilage.”
“I was a student at Goroka High School in the 70s when Kevin would come up from Kainantu while teaching at Agarabi Vocational Centre to conduct schoolboys training programs,” Numapo recalled.
Numapo was first elected to the PNGRFL Board in 1989 when the late Sir Jim Jacobi was chairman. “That’s where I met Kevin who was also serving as a Board member,” Numapo said.
In 1996, Kevin was elected chairman of the PNGRFL replacing the late Joe Keviame. He stood down as Chairman after a year and Numapo took over in 1997 as chairman but continued to serve on the Board as an ordinary member. Rod Pearce was the deputy Chairman then. “We set up a PNGRFL National Development Office at the National Training Institute in Goroka and appointed Kevin as the manager along with Joe Tokam and Francis Matmilo. He was reporting to Martin Adamson who was the General Manager of PNGRFL at the time,” Numapo said. He said that since the problems of the PNGRFL started, Kevin had been in touch constantly, sometimes calling in the middle of the night to talk about the problems and what must be done to solve them so that the game did not suffer. He even volunteered to come up despite his health conditions to assist in solving the problems and get PNGRFL back on track,” Numapo said. “Kevin Murphy contributed immensely to the development of rugby league in PNG. He had the game at heart and was so passionate about it. His dream was to see PNG equal with the other rugby league playing nations and one day to become the world champion,” Numapo said.
Kevin believed in school boys and junior development as he always said that “this is where rugby league starts,” Numapo said. “Kevin once told me that he had one wish when he died and that was ‘to put a PNGRFL flag and a rugby ball in his coffin because all the angels upstairs play rugby league and anyone coming through the gates to join the team must bring their own rugby league ball and a flag to indicate where he came from’.”
He said Kevin’s houses in Aubrey and Tamworth, NSW, have PNG flags flying on the front veranda.
He spoke fluent pidgin and sometimes said he was “PNG insait na waitman outside.”
Extracted from the Post Courier of 29 January 2013