When Cameron Murray first emerged in the top grade at South Sydney, there was a suggestion he may be too small to campaign in the middle of an NRL field, a region routinely patrolled by the giants of the game.
At 184cm and 90kg, Murray gives away 15kg-plus to some of his heftier rivals, whom he is tasked with stopping time and again as he bounces around in a violent pinball machine that can take a physical toll on even the most durable of athletes.
From the start, Murray not only held his own, he blossomed. Now the game has evolved to make his perceived weaknesses into a series of enviable strengths and a vital part of a Rabbitohs outfit one game away from a grand final.
The 23-year-old is also a leading candidate to take over the captaincy when Adam Reynolds leaves for Brisbane next season. It would be a dream promotion for a Mascot Jets junior who has never wanted to do anything else but pull on the colours of his family club.
Murray is always in motion on the field. In attack, he’s taking hard carries with his fast leg drive, often earning a quick play-the-ball in the process, or looming in support in the tradition of the great lock forwards.
He’s also one of the most accurate defenders in the NRL, with a tackle efficiency of 96.4 per cent, and his agility and ability to reset for repeat efforts make him a perfect fit for a game that has been supercharged under new rules aimed at keeping the ball in play for longer.
“When I first came into first grade, I had a little bit of noise about not being big enough. Traditionally, that number 13 role was played as a third front rower,” Murray said. “I found my feet pretty quickly and realised to play my best footy, I need to play to my strengths and not try to fill another role I wasn’t going to be good at.
“That meant playing the way I play now. Whether that has coincided with the new rules and the way the game has started to head since my debut, that might be a coincidence, it might just be luck. But if you analyse it, it probably does turn to my favour with the way the new rules have been going.”