Original article by Nathan Schmook, afl.com.au.
YOUNG footballer Will Murray was taking steps towards reaching his dream of playing in the AFL when a devastating neck injury left him a quadriplegic in January this year.
He had the talent to be noticed as a future draft prospect – winning the SMJFL Under 13 Division 1 league Best & Fairest award in 2015 – and he put in the time to chase his dreams.
He was named vice-captain of the Victorian under-12 team in 2014 in an experience that further fuelled his ambitions.
Having played in back-to-back junior premierships with the East Sandringham Zebras, Murray’s hopes for an AFL career were shattered in January.
The Essendon supporter, whose favourite player is Dyson Heppell, suffered a devastating neck injury at Half Moon Bay in Melbourne’s bayside suburb of Black Rock.
The teenager is starting a long recovery at the Royal Children’s Hospital and his family and premiership teammates are rallying to hold a special curtain raiser to honour him.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has announced that a special junior match will be scheduled ahead of the NAB Challenge clash between Richmond and Port Adelaide on March 10.
Murray’s East Sandringham team will face East Brighton in two 15-minute halves from 5.40pm ahead of the Thursday night match.
It will be a re-match of last year’s South Metro Junior Football League under-13 division 1 Grand Final – Murray’s last match with his East Sandringham teammates.
It was the team’s second successive premiership under coach Nick Murray – Will’s dad.
Murray said his son’s first love was football and it was humbling that his experience had led the AFL to host a match in his honour.
“He was, for his age, a talented athlete who was just starting the journey towards his dream to play AFL,” Murray said of his son, who would want to kick the footy for hours in the dark each night.
“He always had an ability to mark the footy and kick the ball, even before he started playing.
“Then when he started playing he had a freakish ability to mark the ball like no one else.
“To think Will’s impact could ever lead to the AFL doing something like this is incredible.”
The AFL is staging the tribute match to help Will’s family raise awareness for a fundraising appeal.
The Murray family is hoping to generate funds to support Will’s on-going care and rehabilitation.
“It’s going to take a lot of resources to give him the best opportunities for his life,” Murray said.
“That’s everything from having a house that is suitable to care for him, to having a car.
“Most importantly is the ongoing rehab that will never end.”
Will Murray Tribute Match
East Sandringham V East Brighton
Thursday 10th March
Etihad Stadium, 5:40pm
Tickets can be purchased HERE or at the gate.
We very much encourage the SMJFL community to support Will and the Murray family through www.wheretheresawill.com.au.