I suppose that in the brief time I had with Murdoch, I have to say the only thing I gathered was that the All Black prop forward – who only months later was to create a lifetime of discussion – was a man of few words.
I was with fellow sports broadcaster Bill McCarthy, and we were on our way into a photography studio in Karangahape Road in Auckland. We had a camera crew with us and were hoping for a few interviews with members of Ian Kirkpatrick’s All Black rugby team before they flew out on their five-month 1972-73 tour of UK and France.
As we were about to climb some stairs, the moustachioed, barrel-chested and familiar figure of Murdoch, having probably had his picture taken and still dressed as a playing All Black, came down towards us. He knew McCarthy from their young years in Dunedin. The two paused to greet each other and shake hands and I was introduced too. Murdoch only nodded at me.
Bill then said, in the timeless way young men spoke in catch-phrases to each other, ‘Whaddya been up to, Keefy?’ (That apparently was Murdoch’s nickname).
I’ll never forget the big man’s reply; “Aw, nuthin’ much Bill, just drinkin’ a bit of piss and havin’ the odd feed.” And with that, sensing that Bill might be going to invite the cameraman to raise up and focus his lense, Murdoch instead gave a cheery “See ya” and trotted off down the street. Neither Bill or I ever saw him again.
(Incidentally, McCarthy and I then used that Murdoch reply as our own to-and-fro greeting for some time afterwards.)
That abrupt manner of speaking and an unwillingness to be in any kind of media spotlight, even with people he knew, kind of encapsulated what was to be the book of Keith Murdoch’s life. He just preferred to be anywhere but in the spotlight.