By PETER ARGENT
After World War II in the Murraylands Association, a classy rover named William “Bill” Murdoch became a master of our code.
Murdoch was one of just six players to win a remarkable six Mail Medals in country football. This achievement was surpassed only by the recently deceased Peter Kitschke (a fellow country football icon from Northern Areas and SA Football Hall of Famer), Roger Williams from Kangaroo Island, Tailem Bend’s Bohdon Cybulka and Sam Jaeschke who were each honoured with a Mail Medal on seven occasions.
But it was Murdoch’s record of consistency which was unparalleled in country football across this State and which helped make him one of the genuine greats of SA rural football.
His haul of Mail Medals included four in a row from 1952, with the fourth one being given retrospectively. However, what is unmatched in South Australian country football history is that Murdoch was among the top three in the Murraylands Medal count every year from 1951 through to 1962, an amazing run of sustained excellence spanning 12 seasons.
Murdoch started his playing days at Karoonda in 1947 and continued with that club until 1962. His time with the Karoonda side, which wore red and white in that era, started with grand final appearances in 1948 and 1950.
During the heart of the 1950s to 1961, Murdoch and Karoonda enjoyed an outstanding seven flags, including three consecutive premierships from 1952 to 1954, and again from 1956 to 1958.
“Bill was an in-and-under type of player,” explained Ron Whibley, a friend, premiership team-mate, captain and, for some time, opponent.
“He usually played as a rover or in the centre, but despite his size could play at centre half forward as well.
“For his build he had a great leap and was a strong mark…Bill was also very fit, being able to go all day.
“He was also exceptionally durable; I can’t remember him ever getting injured during his playing days.
“His kicking could also go astray on occasions – in an interleague game for Murraylands against Lameroo and Districts one day, he kicked 2.14.”
Murdoch was captain/coach of Karoonda when the United Football Club was formed and, as it was adjacent to the family property, he played with them between 1963 and 1970. Across his nearly two and half decades of country football, Murdoch was among a special group of players who participated in 500 games of rural football.
However, he was so much more to the district than just a player and coach, having been secretary of the Murraylands league for 19 seasons and regarded as “Mr Football” of the region.
Murdoch’s name has been perpetuated at the SA Country Championships, with the Coach of the Championships awarded the Bill Murdoch Medal each year since 2013.
The award for the Junior Colts best and fairest player in Mallee Football also has been named the Murdoch Medal since 1982, with 300-game Crow Tyson Edwards claiming the title in 1988.
In 2011, at the age of 79, Murdoch spent a year coaching the Pinnaroo Supa Roos A grade side, quickly gaining the respect of the playing group and sporting community in his season at the club.
Among his many accolades, Murdoch was awarded football life memberships at the Karoonda & Districts Football & Netball Club, the United Football & Netball Club and the Murray Lands Football League.
Murdoch and wife Irene, also deceased, had four sons, with the youngest, Roger, travelling down to Norwood and carving out a strong career with the Redlegs.
A goal kicking half forward/wingman, Roger “Froggy” Murdoch became one of Norwood’s most popular players of his era, playing 100 League games and a further 126 at reserves level before moving to Port MacDonnell where he played and coached at the Demons in the Mid South East Football League. He also won a Mail Medal with the Demons in 1996 to continue the family lineage with country football’s highest individual honour.
Roger’s sons, Jordan and Brodie, also left footers like their father, were both members of the SA Under 18 state program and played in the SANFL for Glenelg.
Jordan had a 108-game career with Geelong between 2012 and 2018 and played a further 14 matches for the Gold Coast in 2019. Making his SANFL debut in 2011 before being selected in the Draft, Jordan returned to the Bay in 2022.
Brodie played 22 games for St Kilda after being drafted at the end of the 2012 season. He went on to win consecutive premierships with Port Melbourne in the VFL (2017) and Southport in the NEAFL (2018).
Among the hundreds of people who packed the Karoonda clubrooms on Friday, December 30 to celebrate Murdoch’s life was current Carlton and former West Adelaide, Glenelg and North Melbourne key defender Sam Durdin, originally from East Murray.
“Bill was my first football coach,” Durdin proudly explained.
“With my older brother Mark, we would travel down from East Murray to play in the Mallee competition under Bill’s tutelage.
“We did that for three years from about 2003-04 as the Riverland Independent sides only had an Under 17s competition at that point.”
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