In 2019, the University of Adelaide Roma’s have once again been elevated by the presence of Australian Representative Player, Mahalia Murphy, who brings a wealth of experience and elite skills to the squad. Mahalia is not just an Australian Rugby 7s player, but an Indigenous Ambassador for Rugby Australia, inspiring kids from all communities to have goals and strive to achieve them. Being part of the Roma’s squad over the past three years, Mahalia is a mentor and leader among the team, sharing her knowledge of the game to develop skills and promote confidence with the girls.
We were able to speak with Mahalia about her thoughts on being part of the Roma’s again in 2019 and reflect on the first round of the tournament.
“The main highlight is seeing the growth from the first year until now in their skills, confidence, and knowledge. This year there are quite a few new girls playing, so it’s difficult to start from scratch, but we’ve got 4 rounds so I’m hoping to, and believe we will see an improvement.”
Mahalia believes the development of the squad is evident and demonstrated in their newfound confidence on the field.
“When I first started with the girls, they knew they were playing Rugby 7s but they didn't quite have the confidence playing. Over the years they’ve been able to develop their skills and their knowledge of the game.”
After taking 5th position at the first round of Aon Uni 7s Series, held at The University of Queensland, Mahalia has been impressed with both the skills and mentality of the team.
“I just think that off-field the vibe is really good. The girls are very happy, they’re excited, they’re positive, and you can tell that they’re excited to play rugby. I think that’s something that I really like, and there’s a very genuine interest and excitement among the whole squad.”
As one of the Australian representatives in the Adelaide team, Mahalia is confident in the team's structure and professionalism due to the support she has received as an interstate player based in Sydney.
“I was able to go down on a Tuesday and train the two sessions leading into the competition to learn as much as I could. That really benefited me because I got to understand their playing attack plans and learn the systems. It’s good that they understand and support the fact that I’m in Sydney. I went into the weekend a bit more confident knowing how the girls and coach want to play.”
Reflecting on the weekend tournament, Mahalia highlighted that the Roma's had a limited amount of ball in attack, so for the next tournament they will make some changes to look to make the most of possession.
"As a team, we'll be looking to build on the foundations we set from Round 1. Defence has been a massive improvement since the 2018 season, however we'll also look to make the most of the opportunities that present themselves to us."
As Roma’s player for the past 3 years, Mahalia has seen the team develop remarkably. With a number of younger girls in the team, she has been able to share her knowledge as a player of the Aussie 7s team so that they have an understanding of how to play Rugby 7s.
“I think using my knowledge to teach them and using the experiences and the learning curve that I’ve taken, I can try to help them, better them and give them confidence in what they’re doing. They definitely pick it up quite quickly, and they’re definitely going to improve over the next couple of rounds.”
Mahlia is a great female role model, as well as an Indigenous Ambassador for Rugby Australia. As the only indigenous girl in the Aussie team, being an ambassador is something that she is proud to be a part of.
“Obviously, my culture is very important to me, and what I love about being involved with communities and being among the indigenous school kids, is that you can see that they love it when we come into their schools.”
She has the opportunity to visit indigenous communities and help inspire children to dream big.
“A lot of these kids live in small, remote communities, and aren’t very socially confident. Being able to get among them, speak to them, have a conversation and let them know my experience, gives them that bit of insight that I struggled with things as well. When I first started sport I was very shy, but the word that I spread to them is that you’ve just got to take every opportunity that you get with both hands and put yourself out of your comfort zone at times because that’s what it’s going to take to become a better person and to grow. We used to feel inspired when people would come and speak to us, so it’s really important that we can do the same and inspire.”
With Olympic selection in the near future, Mahalia has the dream of making the Olympic squad after 5 years in the Australian squad.
“I know if I put my best foot forward, get as fit as I can, develop my skills and put my best out there, if I get chosen I know its paid off. If not then I’ve got more work to do I guess.”
With the growth and development of Rugby 7s, Mahalia emphasised that the more we have rugby in our country, around different states, it’s only going to strengthen our national teams.
“Obviously, if we have more of that stuff going around Australia, it’s only going to bring more awareness of our sport, and more awareness of the women’s game as well.”
Mahalia said it is refreshing to see a team from South Australia place in the top half of the competition.
“It used to be that the Queensland teams were so dominant, but now there are teams that have grown so much and are so much more confident that they are bringing intensity in the games. Part of the growth of the competition can be credited to the inclusion of more of the Australian girls among the teams. This has pushed teams further, increased excitement and awareness surrounding Rugby 7s, and provided learning opportunities for the players to give them more confidence.
After a strong opening round, Mahalia is hoping the Roma’s can continue to improve and win Round 2, held from September 27 - 29 at Bond University in the Gold Coast.
Words by Emily Johnson.