Youth in focus: A Dub special on Emilia Murray
With the World Cup in full swing and the A-League Men's season on hold until the latter stages of the worldwide football carnival, all eyes domestically turn to the women's game. For the next few weeks, the A-League Women has an unrivalled opportunity to capture the gaze of the Australian public. Round One was a resounding success, with a crowd record broken in New Zealand as the Phoenix took on Melbourne City. It is the perfect time to appreciate some of the young guns and, possibly, future Matildas turning out in a league that is going from strength to strength.
Emilia Murray training for the Reds at Marden Sports Complex. (Adelaide United)
Last Sunday, the current reigning premiers, Sydney FC, travelled to ServiceFM Stadium to take on Adelaide United. Several notable youngsters took part for Adelaide, including 19-year-old central defender Ella Tonkin and 21-year-old goalkeeper Annalee Grove. However, 18-year-old winger/midfielder Emilia Murray stole the show and the three points from the Sky Blues. Replacing Isabel Hodgson in the 68th minute, an enthusiastic Murray came on as an impact sub. She provided the winner for the Reds in the 88th minute. From a fantastic cross from Chelsie Dawber, Murray rose above Sydney's Deborah-Anne De La Harpe to head it beyond Jada Mathyssen-Whyman. It was the only goal in a terrific back-and-forth contest.
Adelaide United boss Adrian Stenta was complimentary of Murray following his side's excellent victory against the top team last season. He said that her maiden A-League Women's goal was a "long time coming". He commended the Young Matilda on her attitude and commitment.
"She’s been really positive in our team environment, and she’s been someone that is pushing for more game time through her effort and consistent performances in training and during games when she’s on the park," he told the Adelaide United website post-game.
A proud Aboriginal woman of the Dhudhuroa and Yorta Yorta nations, Murray has said her culture helped her improve as a footballer and an athlete. But also as a person committing to volunteer work in the Indigenous community, growing up admiring Indigenous Australian icons Sam Kerr and Cathy Freeman.
Any surprised by Murray's crucial contribution to Adelaide so late in the contest may need to pay more attention to her career. Murray enjoyed a spectacular winter run with Football SA's NTC side, scoring nine goals in 11 matches in South Australia's WNPL. This terrific form earned her a scholarship contract with Adelaide and the opportunity to captain the Young Matildas in the Four Nations tournament in Canberra recently. Australia earned Gold with two victories against the Solomon Islands and Fiji.
Murray (far right) pictured with the other captains of the 2022 Pacific Women’s Four Nations Tournament. (Football SA)
A tenacious pressing forward who can also deputise as a midfielder, Murray's game is predicated on disrupting the flow of the opponents' transition from defence to attack. Like current Matilda and Arsenal player Hayley Raso, Murray is versatile with loads of pace, allowing her to find small pockets of space. An avid competitor, she seeks to be physical, as demonstrated by her goal against Sydney FC, getting close to her marker in both defensive and attacking phases. However, her pressing ability and physicality aren't random. Murray has an IQ beyond her years. She understands the situations in which she can get forward to either press or get in behind. Meanwhile, she provides an outlet for her side by coming to receive the ball or making a required challenge. This level of intelligence shows shades of Jamie Maclaren's game, who would be considered the smartest forward in the men's competition.
A prospect with apparent athletic ability, a positive mindset, and a knack for goals should get Australian football fans excited. With the Matildas going from strength to strength in a domestic organisation, European pathways, and the allure of a home World Cup, Murray will undoubtedly be a part of the next generation ready to take on the world. The women's game is safe in Australia, and Murray is evidence of progress, with more and more opportunities given to young women across the country.
Statistics sourced from Keep Up and the official Adelaide United website.
Click here to check out last week's 'Youth In Focus' on Melbourne City defender Jordan Bos.