Liam Murray’s game definitely has some sparkle to it. The question remains is the sparkle the hint of something special?
“(Liam) is a bit like a rough diamond, but we don’t know if it is a diamond yet. That’s up to him,” explained Mike Shelley, an assistant coach with Rugby Canada’s senior men’s team.
“I am just getting to know him (but) he has some of the attributes that you can’t coach, such as size and aggression,” Shelley said. “Along with that sometimes comes aspects that require refining, which is my role.”
Murray, who turns 20 later this month, has been selected for Rugby Canada’s ‘A’ development side for the 2017 World Rugby Americas Pacific Challenge in Montevideo, Uruguay.
The competition — which features teams from Argentina, Samoa, Tonga, the United States, and the host side — begins Oct. 7 and goes until Oct. 15.
Shelley is serving as head coach of the Canadian side in the second annual competition, which serves as a key development tournament for up-and-coming players looking to gain international experience before test match windows.
“(I am) very excited to pull on the Maple Leaf for my country again, nothing really compares to that feeling,” Murray said last week from Victoria, where he is now based.
“I am also quite nervous and anxious to get out there with the big boys. It will be a true test of my ability as a player and by far the biggest challenge yet.”
Murray has been on the Rugby Canada radar for the past two years and has played with both the U18 and U20 sides.
He also spent time in New Zealand with the Counties Manukau community rugby club under-19 squad but since returning to Canada has settled in Victoria, playing for the James Bay Rugby Club and Rugby Canada’s Centre of Excellence.
Murray, who graduated from Brookswood Secondary in 2015 and played with the Langley Rugby Club, said while he is doing what he loves, it hasn’t been easy.
“The toughest part would be leaving family and friends to chase a dream,” he said. “Though I have made many great friends along the way, there is nothing quite like home and Brookswood.”
Murray added it takes a community to help an athlete excel.
“I learned no one gets there on their own, it takes a group of family, friends, coaches and sponsors to make opportunities like this possible for a young athlete like myself,” he said.
Shelley expects Murray to use his size and physicality — he is six-foot-two and 280 pounds — to “impose his will on the opposition.”
“The position he plays could see him do very well.
“Props are a very valuable commodity and Liam has the raw materials to do very well,” he said.
“Depending on how well he is able to manage himself through the next couple of years — and with a bit of luck, steer clear of injuries — he could have a very long career.”
“These are the first steps (and) he has to show promise to continue to the top level.”