It has always struck The Tig that for all the smiles, the quips and the good heart, there is a real burning edge beneath the surface with Geordan Murphy.
You don’t get to achieve what he has achieved or win what he has won by being ‘just’ a nice guy.
Perhaps that edge was formed young, when it didn’t look like he would get an opening with the Irish provinces despite playing internationally at under-19 level. It was honed after he came to Leicester ‘on trial’ which meant he could be going home with nothing to show if he hadn’t taken his opportunity.
Geordan, remember, did think he was on his way home at the end of that trial until his landlady, who just happened to be Martin’s Johnson mum, clarified his position with the club and told him he was staying on.
Stay on he did. For more than 20 years.
For all the mercurial skills – and he will always have a place among the greatest natural talents in the club’s history alongside the likes of Woodward, Dodge, Cusworth and Austin Healey – it is never enough to ‘just’ be ‘naturally good’. You have to have something else. And Geordan has always had it.
John Wells, for example, spent his playing days throwing his body on the line and knows tough when he sees it. Responding to Geordan’s appointment as interim head coach early in the season, Wellsy told the media: “Geordan was a left-field player capable of doing anything with a rugby ball, but he was also a much tougher character than many people gave him credit for.”
The Tigers fans love Geordia for what he produced on the pitch, as an individual and as part of successful teams. Lest we forget, his presence transcended the Deano era into the Pat Howard era and beyond, into the Cockers and O’Connor era. He did not win everything ‘just’ because he was part of such a great team – over 16 seasons he was part of several rebuilds under numerous coaches.
Murphy has always been popular with his team-mates, his chirpy personality and the Irish sparkle have won over many acquaintances. But as the man in charge he has tough decisions to make, harsh calls on players and colleagues, and not for one minute does The Tig fall for all that glossy surface. Beneath, there lurks a tough nut.