‘I’ve never seen a tighter group of footballers’
The Brumbies are the last Australian team standing in the Super Rugby competition and an eighth-straight win this weekend could see them host the grand final.
Their on-field success this year has been largely thanks to the spark in their backline, but it’s the players on the fringe, doing the job when the key players are injured, who have made it possible to win a club record seven games in a row.
It’s not likely you have heard of Andy Muirhead. He hasn’t made the Wallabies selection, and has skirted on the fringes of the Brumbies outfit for the past three years, but his impact has been indicative of the fringe players across the club.
Born near Chinchilla, west of Brisbane, Muirhead spent some of his late teens and early 20s playing rugby in New Zealand.
He moved to Canberra for an opportunity in the Brumbies’ extended training squad and proceeded to light-up the local competition, helping his club Royals to an historic premiership.
That winning experience may be critical in the coming fortnight.
In 2019 he has not looked out of place when starting in the Brumbies backline. He has been one of the most consistent support players, running off his teammate’s hips to score two tries and make more than one line break in each of his 12 games.
Muirhead is in Argentina with the rest of the playing squad to prepare for their semi-final clash against the Jaguares who are in equally fine form.
“It’s a huge thing because I’ve never been able to play finals,” Muirhead said. “It’ll be good to get out and contribute to the boys.”
Muirhead missed out on a start in the quarter final win over the Sharks on the weekend but is hoping to make his first finals appearance this week.
Coach Dan McKellar said the team has gelled better than he had hoped this year.
“They’re incredibly special – I have never seen a tighter group of footballers,” McKellar said. “There is a special feel and you don’t get that very often within a football team.”
Muirhead will have a huge role to play in the future of the club, with fellow winger Speight to head to the Queensland Reds next season.
Speight isn’t the only star leaving the Brumbies.
David Pocock announced his retirement from Super Rugby a month ago after failing to recover from a calf strain that kept him out of the game for most of the year. Captain Christian Lealiifano is also leaving for a stint in Japan after an incredible season, three years after his leukemia diagnosis and 12-years since his Super Rugby debut.
“When you do have [that special feeling] you have to take advantage of it, and cash in. We are in that position at the moment. We have confidence, we have belief, we have a group of blokes who love playing footy together, who love wearing the jersey and representing our people,” McKellar said.
A win in Argentina this Saturday morning, AEST, could mean a home final if the Hurricanes can defeat the Crusaders in New Zealand on Saturday night.