When you think of Australian dual internationals to play both rugby league and rugby union… you think of Ray Price, Michael O’Connor, Wendell Sailor and Timana Tahu, just to name a few.
However, Mahalia Murphy is a trailblazer when it comes to dual internationals for the two codes.
The 23-year-old burst into the sports scene in 2015, when she made an enthralling debut for the Jillaroos, the Australian women’s rugby league side, by scoring a hat trick of tries against New Zealand. By August that same year, Mahalia was pulling on the green and gold of the Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens squad. It was a decision that Mahalia hasn’t regretted.
“We get to travel internationally, experiencing different countries and different cultures, meet new people and just competing at this level is just a challenging thing for me and I enjoy that challenge," she tells The Point.
"The team is based on a lot of skill, a lot of fitness, the awareness is just amazing. And being able to be a part of that is just an amazing opportunity.”
Mahalia was scouted by the ARU and made her Sevens debut in February 2016 at a tournament in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Watching Mahalia train and play, you get the feeling that she would have been great at any sport she applied herself to. But with her natural speed and elusive footwork, she is a perfect fit for Rugby Sevens - a game that flows quickly, but still has that physicality associated with a contact sport.
Although Mahalia wasn’t part of the successful women’s side that brought home the Gold Medal at last year’s Rio Olympic Games, she is regarded as a key component of the side in the future.
Scott Bowen, the Performance Manager of the Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens side, says Mahalia has played in the majority of this season’s World Rugby Sevens Series for Australia. He believes she’s improving with each appearance.
“She's a strong physical girl that runs with a lot of intent, you know. She does work very hard off the field in her gym and preparation. Just her willingness to compete is the overriding feature of her,” he says.
The speedster knows that the current Seven's side is a tough unit to crack. Keeping her position in the team only pushes Mahalia to train and play at her very best. And there's no question about her commitment - she travels from Doonside, in western Sydney, all the way to Narrabeen, on Sydney's northern beaches, to train four times a week.
“I've been getting up at four o'clock and leaving home at four thirty. [I] get here, have a little snooze in the car, and get ready to go. The sacrifices have been a massive part of my journey so far. Just the sacrifices of [not] being with family, spending time with friends, lifestyle and nutrition, that was a massive one for me.”
The old saying rings true - you can take the girl out of western Sydney, but you can't take western Sydney out of the girl, as Mahalia hasn't forgotten her roots and where she comes from.
Two nights a week she returns to where it all began - her junior rugby league club, the Doonside Roos, to help train teenage girls, many of whom are first time players.
“I can relate to where they are today. It's just about teaching them to be consistent and turning up to training and doing what's required to become the better player that you can be. I believe in every single one of them. You know, I once started as a beginner as well,” she says.
Two nights a week, Mahalia also runs a free personal training session in the Doonside area. This is just another example of how she gives back to the community, as Mahalia knows the importance of inspiring people, young and old, to become healthier and make better choices when it comes to food.
After the remaining round left in the World Rugby Sevens Series to take place in France in late June, Mahalia will run off to the University of South Australia in the 2017 Uni 7’s Series starting in late August.