Murdoch Biography Revisits Player’s Demise

A new biography of one of New Zealand’s best-known rugby players has been published. Murdoch: The All Black Who Never Returned, by Ron Palenski, New Zealand’s best sportswriter, outlines and reviews one of the most controversial episodes in New Zealand sport.

Keith Murdoch was on the All Blacks (New Zealand’s national rugby team) in the early 1970s. After one victory in Wales, Murdoch got into a brawl with a hotel security guard. Over the next few days, this incident blew up as both the New Zealand Rugby Union and the British Home Unions’ administrators got involved. Murdoch was subsequently sent home.

Murdoch—nomadic by nature—did not return to New Zealand; he got off the returning flight in Singapore and then spent the rest of his life in Australia’s outback. He died this year, never having spoken publicly about what happened, or about the impact the incident had on him.

The “Murdoch incident” has cast something of a stain on the All Blacks. In Murdoch: The All Black Who Never Returned, Palenski outlines the pressure put on the All Blacks’ management to send Murdoch home by the Home Unions (of Britain and Ireland) and the New Zealand Rugby Union. Murdoch, it is fair to say, was a controversial figure. Yet by all accounts Murdoch was a good team-man who was relatively shy.

Although the incident took place nearly 50 years ago, Palenski concludes that it would be appropriate if the New Zealand Rugby Union apologized to Murdoch’s family, arguing that such a step would help clean up a black stain on the All Blacks rugby team.