Karen Murphy details final Commonwealth Games heartache

by Domenic Favata

Recently-retired BCiB Australian Jackaroo Karen Murphy has opened up on the extraordinary highs and lows felt in her final Commonwealth Games appearance on the Gold Coast in 2018.

The 45-year-old is widely considered the doyenne of Australian bowls and is the most-capped Jackaroo of all-time, with 668 international appearances and five Commonwealth Games recorded since her debut in 1997.

In her final Games appearance in 2018, Murphy was entrusted with the honour of reading the Athletes’ Oath on behalf of competitors from all sports during the opening ceremony, and in speaking with Clive Adams in Bowls Australia’s ‘Legends Under Lights’ series, she detailed the heartache that occurred thereafter.

“It was the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, all in a 24-hour period,” Murphy recounted.

“I was named reader of the Athletes’ Oath and the very next day, my mum [Lorraine] was rushed into hospital with a brain tumour on [what was] the first day of the Games.

“Highly emotional 24-hours but it was a huge honour [reading the Athlete’s Oath].

“You don’t really think about it at the time; I wasn’t even nervous reading the oath. I’d done a bit of television stuff before, it was just talking in public you know… But then, you get home from the Commonwealth Games, you look back and go, ‘Wow, that was big.'”

Despite the scare at the time, Lorraine Murphy thankfully made a full recovery in the months that followed the Games, while Karen Murphy went without a medal-finish in a Commonwealth Games for the first time in her decorated career, having contested the Women’s Singles and Pairs.

“The support from my teammates at the time meant so much to me. It was the best thing I took away from the Games,” Murphy added.

“I was trying so hard to keep it together, knowing we had a job to do.

“It wasn’t until after the Games where I got home and mum was okay that the heartache really set it.

“It was one of the first international events in my career where I hadn’t picked up a medal, so it was just coming to terms with that and the emotional rollercoaster that had just occured.

“But look, I would’ve sacrificed two gold medals at the time for mum.”

Despite her swansong in the event not going according to script, Murphy has fond memories from her five Commonwealth Games campaigns, where she secured three silver medals and one coveted gold in Melbourne, 2006.

“It’s just so exciting; there’s nothing like getting your Commonwealth Games kit,” she said.

“I remember, when I played at St John’s Park and I think we were going to Manchester [2002], all our gear came to the club. Three massive big bags, suitcases of clothes, socks, towels, shirts and caps… And it’s got your name all over it; it’s like Christmas.

“Then jumping on the plane with all the other athletes and being a part of a big team… Then you jump in the lift with Grant Hackett and Ian Thorpe etc.

“Made some really great friendships with people from other sports and working with Commonwealth Games Australia a little bit too now… It’s awesome that bowls is a core sport.”

Looking back on her 22 years in the green and gold, Murphy reflected on the changing face of the sport over the years and the progress it’s made in changing perception.

“I look back when I was younger and I was almost embarrassed to say to anyone that I played bowls,”⁣⁣ she said.

“It wasn’t like saying ‘I played tennis full-time or I played cricket full-time’ or something like that.

“But now, I look back with great pride that the stigma isn’t around our sport anymore.

“Bowls Premier League (BPL), what we wear, the fast formats of the game… All these things have changed the perception.”

“Commonwealth Games does that, barefoot bowls does that, even Crackerjack has done that!”