FIFTY years ago today, Warrington got one of their greatest ever signings – Alex Murphy

Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours

On Monday 17 May 1971, a meeting was held at the Greyhound, Leigh that included club chairmen Jack Harding (Leigh) and Ossie Davies (Warrington). Alex Murphy was also present, and just 2 days after leading Leigh to a sensational Wembley triumph over Leeds, he signed a five year deal.. to join Warrington. Let’s look back at some of his time involving Warrington through words and pictures.

Who are you?

Alexander James Murphy OBE

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A star is born

His date of birth: 22 April 1939. Star sign - Taurus (the bull). The lad from Thatto Heath (St Helens)

The very first time

The first time he plays against Warrington, in January 1957, it is his third match for St Helens, and it’s his first game at stand-off

Just a Boy

He is still only 17, when he plays in that game, and scores a try, in a 33-7 victory.

Saint or Sinner?

His record for St Helens when playing against Warrington:

Played 15 Won 11 Lost 4 Success rate 73.3%

Murphy’s only final appearance against Warrington, was the 1959 Lancashire Cup. Played on Saturday 31 October at Swinton before over 39,000 fans. He played stand-off opposite Bobby Greenough, in a game where Brian Bevan scored a controversial winning try, as Warrington won 5-4

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When will I see you again

He would join Leigh in 1966. His record for Leigh when playing against Warrington:

Played 7 Won 6 Lost 1 Success rate 85.7%


On joining Warrington his first game was in a pre-season friendly, the Wardonia Cup, against Wigan, aged 32. The team lost and he ended up needing several stitches in a head wound, from a head clash with a Wigan forward.

Gonna Make You A Star

Official debut - 6 August 1971 v Whitehaven (H) won 17-9 (Lancashire Cup First Round)

Team: Whitehead (2 goals); Barton, Fleet, Smith, Hennighan; Murphy (try, goal, and drop goal), Gordon; Larkin, Heard, Brady (try), Gregory, Cannon, Parr (try).

The most points he scored in a game for Warrington was the seven he got in this match.

Heritage Number


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Play The Game

He would go on to make 66+1 appearances for the Primrose and Blue.

Positions he played for Warrington – right centre 2 games, stand-off 57 games, scrum half 7 games, plus 1 as playing substitute back.

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Whilst playing in the Primrose and Blue he scored nine tries.

His most important try for The Wire, was probably the one he scored in the drawn Challenge Cup semi final against Saints in April 1972.

Warrington never lost, in all the games he scored a try in.

His last try he scored for Warrington, was against Leigh, in a First Division game, in April 1974.


He kicked 12 goals for the club

Drop Goals

He kicked an impressive 28 drop goals, which makes him the 5th highest in Warrington’s history.

He averaged a drop goal nearly every two games, the best by any player at the club.

His most crucial drop goal was the one he scored in the dying seconds of the Challenge Cup semi final against St Helens in April 1972, to level the scores at 10-10.

He once scored three drop goals in a game, against Leeds, in August 1973.

His two drop goals at Wembley in 1974, against Featherstone Rovers, were the last to be worth two points in English professional rugby league. These would prove to be the last points he would score.

He once wanted a drop goal to be re-valued to SIX points!

Kiwi Polish

He played in the Warrington team that beat the 1971 touring New Zealanders 13-2

His final GB appearance

His club form made him be selected to play for Great Britain, after an absence of five years, in the Second Test against New Zealand, in October 1971 at Castleford, after an injury to Featherstone Rovers Steve Nash.

A 14-17 defeat gave New Zealand their first Test Series win here for 63 years, in a controversial game.

To compound things Murphy suffered an arm injury, which required surgery. It proved to be his last international game.

Murphy’s Law

‘Anything that can go wrong will go wrong’

Murphy was sometimes a law unto himself.

Alex was sent off in successive games in February 1972. First by referee Allatt for illegal use of his elbow on Oldham’s Frank Foster, and then the following week at Castleford in the Challenge Cup by referee Wood for his ‘tackle’ on Derek Edwards, early in the game.

He was suspended for five matches in total.

Murphy also got his marching orders (for retaliation), from referee Lindop, on the debut of sensational British Lion signing John Bevan in September 1973.

I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am!)

Warrington hadn’t topped the league since 1955/56, but Murph soon saw to that. With the help of his teammates, the club in 1972/73 went on a 20 game unbeaten league run from August to February to eventually finish top, ahead of Featherstone Rovers by two points. Murphy crowned things by holding aloft the League Leaders Trophy, his first success at the club… we were on our way!

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You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

The following season, 1973/74, would become the most successful in Warrington’s history, as Alex coached the team to victory in the Captain Morgan Trophy (4-0 v Featherstone Rovers), Players No.6 Trophy (27-16 v Rochdale Hornets), Challenge Cup (24-9 v Featherstone Rovers) and Club Championship (13-12 v St.Helens)

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When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going

Halifax in the 1973 Challenge Cup first round, proved to be one of the toughest games ever. No quarter given or taken, to such an extent that both clubs were questioned of bringing the game into disrepute with their intimidatory tactics. Alex had to have seven stitches in a head wound, as the ‘Wire’ won 7-4.

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Saturday 8 December 1973 @ Headingley - Captain Morgan Trophy semi final. Fifty eight minutes had gone when Alex found touch downfield. Bang! Murphy is felled with a late tackle by Leeds hooker Tony Fisher, and is helped off the field with a facial injury. It was so bad that he had to have a three-and-a-half hour operation at Liverpool Royal Infirmary after suffering a fractured and depressed cheekbone. It put him out of the game for more than three months, but he vowed it wouldn’t end his career.

Listen to What the Man Said

‘Every time I go on the field I play to win. Different games are won in different ways. I want to win them all. Victory is my aim – the losers can have all the sympathy they like. I do my homework before every match to pinpoint the weakness of the opposition, and that includes referees. I aim to get everything I can from referees because it might help me to win.’

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The Good…

Warrington’s Wembley success in 1974 was their first for 20 years. Alex completed his record of captaining three different teams to success there, his others being St Helens (1966) and Leigh (1971). He also kept the scoreboard ticking with his drop goals in the second half.

Warrington Guardian: Winning the Challenge Cup at Wembley in 1974

...the Bad...

Alex had an almost hypnotic effect over the Featherstone team, but he had to do it at a price. He was injured early on, in a foul tackle by Harold Box, and left the field after half an hour, complaining of damaged ribs, and a ‘dead’ leg. He was given five pain-killing injections at half time to get him back out for the second half

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…and the Ugly

He set the tone for the game with a bad tackle on their centre Dave Hartley after only a couple of minutes, resulting in the first penalty of the game. The match would go on to contain quite a number of unsavoury incidents.

But as they say “Winners are grinners” and an estimated 100,000 well wishers welcomed the conquering heroes home.

Love Thy Neighbour

The 1975 Wembley showdown was to be an all-Cheshire affair, against near neighbours Widnes. It pitted Murphy v Vince Karalius (the player who would always look after him when he played at Saints)

The pre match publicity showed “We have the talent to pull it off” – Murphy. “I’m turning out a team of athletes” – Karalius. In the end Widnes won 14-7. Had players played who were not match fit? Should Alex have picked himself to play,…would that have made a difference, who knows? He was shell-shocked after that defeat.

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Four days later was his Testimonial, for 20 years service to game he loved. Billy Thompson refereed the game, and with 10 minutes to go they swapped jerseys, and Murphy saw his chance to have a go back. When Thompson dropped a goal, Murphy tried to disallow it for some minor infringement, much to the amusement of the packed crowd. That’s the way he was, one-upmanship.

The Last Time

His last game for the club – 21 September 1975 v Keighley (H) won 18-16 (First Division League game)

Team: Whitehead (6 goals); M Philbin, Noonan, Reynolds, Bevan; Murphy, Gordon; Chisnall, Waller (try), Price, Conroy, Jewitt (try), B Philbin. Subs: Whittle, Peers (both played).

Sign Your Name

Not only was he successful on the field, he was off it, signing great players for the club, including

Dave Chisnall, Kevin Ashcroft, Mike Nicholas, John Bevan, Tommy Martyn, Steve Hesford, Ken Kelly and Bob Eccles, to name but a few.


A couple of his famous comments

“Things can go wrong. After all, the Titanic sank. Didn’t it?” (1975 – After the Challenge Cup defeat by Widnes)

“If Widnes win the Challenge Cup, I will jump off Runcorn Bridge” (1976 – St Helens saved him by beating Widnes 20-5)

Coaching record

Murphy remained as Warrington coach until May 1978, before going on to Salford.

His coaching record ended up:

Played 308 Won 176 Drawn 14 Lost 118 - a win ratio of 57.14%

Only Ces Mountford coached in more Warrington games.

He also took on the role of England coach in January 1975 until November of that year, and the Lancashire County side from 1973/74 to 1977/78.

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More honours

He returned as football executive, to coach John Dorahy in 1996, and in 1998 received the OBE in the New Year's Honours list. In 2010 he became the club’s first ambassador, and that year he was elected into the Warrington Players’ Association Hall of Fame.

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You either like him or loathe him, but you can never ignore him

Compiled by Stanski, Gary Slater and Phil Ball