Father figure farewelled
THE Tucabia-Copmanhurst Cricket Club family farewelled its godfather on Wednesday.
The sea of blue club shirts at the funeral service held at Grafton's Christ Church Cathedral symbolised the deep respect held for founding member Alan Murray, whose battle with cancer ended on January 31 with him aged 78.
First playing for Tucabia aged 12, Murray was part of the highly successful amalgamation of Tucabia and Copmanhurst in 1974. The newly formed Tucabia-Copmanhurst won the first grade premiership in its first season. Murray was made the club's first life member in 1980.
Last year Cricket NSW awarded Murray a Certificate of Appreciation in recognition of 50 years' service.
When he spoke to The Daily Examiner he singled out the 1980-81 third grade premiership as a personal highlight.
"There were eight juniors in the team and most went on to play first grade," he said.
Greg Mears was one such teenager who went on to have a long first grade career and continues to play for Tucabia-Copmanhurst in second grade.
"I used to call him the Godfather," Mears said.
"He's one of the greatest clubmen we've ever had and personally like a father figure when I was growing up. I got a kick up the bum when I needed it and so did a few blokes in that third grade side.
"He made you want to play for the club and made you want to stay.
"Al always created a family club and that's why a lot of people still play for the club. We're all one big family."
Mears recalled his first encounter with the banana farmer who would offer succulent bunches of the fruit as an incentive to players who scored a 50.
"The first time I met him I was at a mate's place in Ulmarra. At the time I was playing for South. He walked into the backyard and we didn't know who he was," Mears said.
"He said he was the president of Tucabia-Copmanhurst and 'you live in Ulmarra, you play for Tucabia'.
"I was too scared to say no. We signed up and the rest is history.
"Every Saturday he organised for everyone to meet at the Ulmarra newsagent and he'd pick us up in a mini bus."
Murray remained a passionate supporter long after his playing days were over, and may have even extended the careers of others.
"He came to the games for as long as he could and right up to the last he was checking up on the scores in the paper," Mears said.
"At a presentation night a few years ago I was thinking about giving the game away.
"Al made a deal with me. He said is I keep playing he'll keep watching. He's got me - now he is up there watching so I have to keep playing."
Murray stepping out of his blue Hyundai in his white shorts to watch his beloved club in action had become a familiar sight in recent years.