Whatever happened to Keith Murdoch?

In December 1972, the touring All Black rugby team won a closely fought match 19-16 against Wales at Cardiff Arms Park, thanks to a try from prop forward Keith Murdoch. Murdoch was a giant, a 17-stone powerhouse, in an era before weight training. After the victory, Murdoch went out to celebrate, and ended the evening by arguing with the tour manager, and then knocking out a security guard at the Angel Hotel. This was apparently the latest in a series of drunken scraps, and the All Black authorities decided enough was enough. Murdoch was dismissed him from the tour in disgrace, and put on a plane home.

However, Murdoch didn’t go home. At his connection in Singapore, he disappeared, before vanishing into the Australian outback. Ever since, journalists have tried to track him down, but the few who find him rarely get a warm reception. One, rugby writer Terry McLean, left in a hurry, after Murdoch threatened to rub his face in a nearby pool of oil.

However, Murdoch remains a fascinating figure to New Zealanders, and these occasional sightings generate considerable interest. He is seen as a tragic figure, the only All Black ever to be expelled from a tour, whose relatively minor misdemeanours did not warrant the disgrace that forced him into exile. In 1979, Murdoch paid a brief visit to New Zealand, and was seen saving the life of a drowning toddler, by giving the child mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for four minutes.

In 2001, Murdoch reappeared in a less favourable light, when he was questioned as part of a murder investigation. A petty thief who had recently burgled Murdoch’s house was found dead at an abandoned goldmine called Nobles Nob. Murdoch was summoned to answer questions as a witness, but no charges were laid.

19 thoughts on “Whatever happened to Keith Murdoch?

  1. It is interesting that no one, other than David Haviland, including the playwright to ‘Finding Murdoch’, chose to do the obvious, for probable biased reasons, which was to ask what happened from the other side, either at the Angel Hotel in Cardiff, or by researching to try find the assaulted security guard, and interview him. It also makes for a better play and mystery not to do so.

    Apparently, after the game, and reception, back at the hotel and drunk (thats Ok), he was hungry, but the kitchen was closed. So, he barged into the kitchen and started helping himself to food (thats not OK, basically theft). I was not aware of incident with Tour Manager prior to this.

    A hotel security guard was called, who asked him to leave, understandably, as that was his job. The next part, who started punching first, needs to be found out from both sides, but bottom line the guard who was just doing his job, was beaten up (definately not OK).

    Now after checking the above, you decide, should he have been sent home, sent to jail for assault, or should it have been ignored?

    I believe the right decision was made, and it was an unfortunate, sad incident for all concerned.

    I am sure Keith Murdoch if he had not been drunk, would have been/is as nice a man, as those above say he was when sober, and equally violent when drunk. I am sure he felt afterwards, still feels, horribly guilty about the whole thing. But here, now, the mystery, about why he assaulted the security guard, is out. Let the poor fellow alone, as he wishes, as I am sure he does not want to be constantly reminded of the incident. Would you?

    A man from 72/73.

    • I had the extream pleasure of meeting Murdock, working with him on a couple of jobs and living around him from the early eightys. The reason im on this site now is because i was searchen to try and find out where he may be but im just glad he is free somewhere, anb id guarentee he’s big frame would be haven a quite ale minding he’s own business and ready to help anyone who genuinely nedded it. Murdock never spoke of he’s involvement with the Allblacks and that is the sort of guy he is, id love to see the dudes who judge him try to live a life after been one of the best players in the world and to just cut from it overnight and say nothing of his achievement to any one, well Murdock done just that he never boasts stays humble and is great fun to be around iv drank with him all night on an odd occasion and he saved my skin a couple of times by just been calm and collected, that’s who Murdock is and any of the old school Operators who knew him would say the same. I am previleged to say something for one of the best human beings i have ever meet he is often on my mind, and i know I will one day bump into him somewhere in a town in the middle of no where, and i bet hed be in his van his f100 ute parked beside the van flat tyres flat battery,he’d be walken to the pub, or riden his moter bike off road if the pub was a distance was to far, he,d be worken mayby on a machine or labouring it never worried this intelegent giant, and thats how hed be untill he got the itch then hed be gone,he deserves to be left alone with the people he chooses to spend his time with, God be with him always

  2. David, not sure if this discussion is still on going. Keith Murdoch is definately the hardest rugby player ever and possibly the hardest person ever. If you can’t talk, the options are limited. In a time when the biggest prop was 14 stone, he was a mammoth. Years later Mof Myberg, the springbok, at 19 stone was a freak and could only walk from break down to break down. I played rugby for over 40 years (at fullback) and the best prop I played with was Geoff Probyn (Richmond FC, Early 80’s). The scrum never moved when he played either at club or international level. Anyway, I have always had a special interest in Keith Murdoch. I was at Swansea University in 1972 and had booked 2 tickets to watch the Wales New Zealand game in Cardiff. I had agreed to have a beer and collect the tickets from a friend in the Angel Hotel. When I arrived at the hotel with my girlfriend Judith, the security guard would not let her in because he claimed she looked under eighteen. I argued that you did not need to be 18 to enter a hotel. To no avail! Guess who the “prat” was. I missed the game as Judith was crying and because of the crowds would not let me go in on my own to get the tickets. You can imagine my complete total and utter joy, when I read the Welsh press the next day (the security guard’s photo was published). How many times in life does a prat get his comeuppance (and that quickley). I am completely and absolutely sure, 40 years later, that Murdoch had no option but to hit the prat. I am not a lawyer, but I am sure there would have been no question that the food would have been paid for, if ask in the right way! I would have loved to planted him one but one dose’nt, does one? Thank you Keith Murdoch.

      • There is footage of K Murdoch in action .Last week BBC Wales produced an excellrnt programme calle WE BEAT THE ALL BLACKS -Llanelli of course in 1972 .Murdoch is shown stamping and punching in some of the highlights .Also Gareth Jenkins ,Llanelli flanker described how he was knocked out .It was a rough match and ref did little to stop foul play .I was there as a spectator and KM came off the field of play to stamp on Llanelli wing Andy Hill who was about 2 yards over the touchline and directly in front of us .There was no whingeing at the time however but I was surprised at the ferocity and lkevel of violence in the game when watching the footage last week .Now we have Andrew Hoare incident .Plus ca change .Tim Roberts

  3. I read a number of books which covered the so-called “Murdoch affair” and some of the “facts” mentioned above don’t quite equate with the writers’ versions. Renowned NZ rugby writer Terry McLean said that when Murdoch went to the kitchen looking for food it was standard procedure, something players had done since touring began.

    Two security guards intervened, ordering him out and making some rather disparaging remarks (including, from memory, calling him a —-ing animal). Naturally, Murdoch didn’t take kindly to this and as trouble was obviously brewing someone rushed to get ABs manager Ernie Todd in an effort to defuse the situation. Todd, who hadn’t been on the best of terms with several All Blacks, including Murdoch, apparently didn’t bother inquiring what it was all about but simply said: “Right, Murdoch, this time I’m sending you home.”

    Murdoch, who was being held by the two security guards, reportedly responded: “In that case I may as well take these bastards with me.” Murdoch then “expanded”, McLean said, flinging the two hefty men off him as if they were lightweights.

    He then hit the bigger of the two, Peter Grant. Grant, 6ft 4in and 17 stone, went down like a sack of spuds. He wasn’t knocked out, but as press pictures later showed, was left with a shiner to end all shiners.

    Murdoch, highly agitated by now, later decked team-mate Alex Wyllie who was trying to persuade him to quieten down.

    In Murdoch’s defence, it must be said that McLean described much of the behaviour of the Gwent security guards at the Angel Hotel throughout that night as rude and aggressive, especially to New Zealanders. And, after all, Murdoch was causing no one any trouble in the kitchen, merely looking for a cold piece of chicken or a sandwich.

    How tough was Murdoch? Well, Colin Meads said he once hit Murdoch with his best shot and made absolutely no impact. In fact Murdoch laughed and asked if that was all he had.

    Former Otago loose forward Greg Magee said in one of his books that he prayed Murdoch would return to the deep south after the ABs’ 1970 tour of SA in time to play for Otago against Canterbury.

    The Cantabs had a big, strong pack who were known to play extremely dirty rugby. But Magee said Murdoch was so formidable that if he was in the Otago team, none of those brutal Cantab hard men would dare dish out the rough stuff.

    As it turned out, Murdoch got appendicitis in the last week of the ABs tour (playing in the fourth test despite being hunched over in pain at every lineout), had the appendix taken out straight after the match and wasn’t able to play for Otago in that game.

    And, said Magee, not ones to miss an opportunity, Canterbury punched and kicked Murdoch-less Otago around the paddock for 80 minutes.

    Murdoch was said to be incredibly strong and on one occasion when a mate’s car broke down he gave him a tow — attaching the tow rope to his friend’s vehicle, then reputedly hopping in his own car with the other end of the rope wrapped round his hand and holding it like that as he drove off.

    Peter Lewis (who writes above) wasn’t accurate when he said it was an era of 14-stone props. The ABs had 16 and 17-stone props in the ’60s, including Ken Gray and Jazz Muller. And Moff Myburgh, the 19-stoner Peter mentions, didn’t play “years later”. He actually appeared for SA for much of the ’60s, and actually played against Murdoch in that 1970 test.

    I can’t say with any certainty that Murdoch was the hardest player, or hardest man, ever. But when he was obviously able to cower an entire pack of Canterbury forwards, obviously he was something pretty special.

    • Big hello to BarneyM and all those who contributed to the Keith Murdoch post.
      I’m from London and have just turned 30 years old. In Australia I bumped into a few old faces from rugby days in the 60s and 70s, I wanted some stories to contribute to my investigation of grassroots rugby around the world.

      I asked our new friend who were the best of hardest men he ever played against, he said Ray Price, and Keith Murdoch. He told me an amusing story of having dinner with Keith a year prior and how the French cuisine was just nowhere near enough to fill him up. Keith tried ti explain to the French speaking waitress that he needed 2 or 3 portions each time she served a course.

      While I am certainly not looking to reinvent the wheel by telling other people’s stories, the book is about rugby culture and about how the rugby family is tighter than 6 degrees of separation. I’m sure, that having played yourselves over the years, you’ll know a lot more people than you first realise.

      I love to make new rugby mates so please feel free to email and say hello, jodieandtom@googlemail.com

      Once the book is finished, I’m going to work on greating a global grassroots community where we can get together and centrally provide support to all manner of rugby projects in poor areas.

      Wishing you all well, and to the Kiwis, big congratulations for a great win.

      Tom and Jodie

  4. A bit late with my post, Keith lived and worked for my family for ten yrs, he saved my life as a toddler. My grandmother who’s passed away would always talk about Keith with the highest regard, manners, work ethic, storys of remarkable strength, lifting a full petrol tank back onto a Massey tractor was one story I can remember, also my father who played rugby with Keith for Otago witnessed Keith out bench press a Sth African power lifter to the person’s bewilderment, my father is unsure of the weight but say’s there was a bow in the bar. My father has only spoken to Keith once or twice in thirty yrs, and I can tell that he always missed his best mate. As far as I know Keith is working in Port Headland Australia.

  5. Thats a shame the NZRU should of backed Keith not sacked him now he is known for the wrong reasons.The man that scored the winning try against Wales.It has had a great effect on a mans life?I feel sorry for him .The best thing that can happen is the All Blacks win the World Cup & dedicate it to Keith?

  6. As one of the people who were accused along with Murdoch of the incident in Tennant Creek,I can assure you that Murdoch was innocent.I was the only friendly face in the courthouse on the day of his appearance.The dogs that did do it,threw both me and Murdoch to the wolves.We could have given them up but that would have made us as bad as them.Murdoch doesn`t mind talking rugby,it just isn`t the sort of thing that he particularly likes.The years that I`ve known him I have never once seen him do anything that was an act of betrayal or anything else.

  7. I was 17 in ’72, just left school and started in club rugby. KM became my instant hero and i modelled my game attitude v much on him. I got quite a rep in my team for ‘ardent’ but fair techniques in rucks and mauls. I dont think i remember ever being stripped of the ball. Sadly, without proper training or medical care, after too many suicide tackles i had to hang up my boots in ’77. Respect to you KM wherever you are. Work hard and play hard, but party off the scale! Too many players these days have never heard the expression ‘Death or Glory’.  

  8. Pingback: Keith Murdoch | Digging Like a Demented Mole

  9. Pingback: Rugby World Cup 2011 - Page 22

  10. A report in the Sydney Morning Herald today suggests veteran NZ rugby writer Terry McLean was the first journalist to track Keith Murdoch down — “four or five years” after his disappearance. I beg to differ. As a Brisbane-based former Kiwi sports journalist, I broke the first Murdoch “sighting” story in Wellington’s now-defunct Sports Post on Saturday, September 7, 1974 — in a front page splash under the headings “Murdoch wants a Kiwi Christmas — KEITH COMES HOME”. This followed a remarkable encounter at Ballymore the previous Saturday, where, along with a couple of fellow Kiwis, I ran into Murdoch at a beer stall after a NZ-Australia Schoolboys international. Far from avoiding us — though I must admit I didn’t reveal my “media” status — Keith (then living at the Gold Coast and working as a machine operator on the Hinze Dam) talked freely about mutual acquaintances “down south”, the then upcoming All Black trials, how Otago were shaping … but neatly sidestepped any reference to that fateful Cardiff incident. He did, however, tell us he was planning to go home for the first time — to see his mother for Christmas.

  11. Very interesting to read Dean Peddie’s story which was well known in the South where Keith saved him from drowning as a toddler. His father Don was a very good Otago rugby player and Keith and Don were great friends. I played against Keith when he played through the grades for Zingari in the mid to late 60’s and you could see his potential then. Keith wasn’t actually devoted to training in those days but he was big and strong. Actually I also played against Don Peddie in the school days when he was a very good second five. If I recall Don played mostly on the wing for Otago and interestingly it was part of Otago’s DNA to have a big fast wing in those days. Something Lawrie Mains brought from Otago to the All Blacks with Jonah Lomu.

    I’m sorry to say I’m pretty sure many of the stories of Keith have grown over the years. Yes, he was big and strong, but that’s what you expect props and locks to be. I seem to remember being around one night when Keith and a few of us pushed a car which was blocking traffic out of the way. To those of us who knew him (me, not that well) he was a good bloke, friendly and sociable. I never saw or heard of Keith being involved in any untoward incidents during his days in Dunedin in the mid to late 60’s.

  12. Well to all of the people that have respect for keih Murdock, i had a beer with him about a year and a bit ago, he is still the old keith hasn’t changed too much, great bloke.

Leave a Reply