Euan Murray: Young Alumnus of the Year 2009

Euan Murray: Young Alumnus of the Year 2009

Every year, the University recognises the achievements of alumni who have made a major contribution to society through the Young Alumnus of the Year Award. The 2009 award went to Veterinary Medicine graduate turned professional rugby player, Euan Murray (BVMS 2003).

Training in veterinary medicine could be considered highly appropriate for a rugby player when faced with an opponent called The Beast. For Scotland and Northampton tighthead prop Euan Murray, careful handling (read, 18 stones of brute force) tamed The Beast – otherwise known as Tendai Mtawarira – during a game against South Africa at Murrayfield in November last year, and in doing so he cemented his reputation as one of the best players in rugby.

One of only two Scots initially picked for the 2009 British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa, injury unfortunately curtailed his involvement after only four games. ‘It was disappointing,’ he says calmly, without the slightest hint of anger or regret.

Euan accepts such misfortunes with equanimity these days. It was a frightening on-field accident in 2005, where team-mates and onlookers feared that the unconscious, convulsing player would die, which prompted him to reflect on his life and find greater strength in his Christian faith.

He says: ‘My faith gives me the correct perspective on life. So I know that whatever happens to me it’s going to be for the best.’

Injuries aside, life has been pretty good for the 29-year-old who has risen from the junior ranks of Glasgow Southern and Glasgow Thistle, through the city’s senior clubs – the Hawks and Warriors – to become an essential member of the Scotland team and his current club, Guinness Premiership side Northampton Saints.

Still recovering from the ankle injury that forced him out of the Lions tour, Euan, who won his first international cap in 2005, is keen to get back on the pitch.

He said: ‘I hope to be back playing soon and that I will be selected for the upcoming Six Nations.  I really enjoy it at Northampton, it’s been good fun. There are quite a few different nationalities here – Argentinians, Irish, South African – and just across the road from the stadium there’s a road called Glasgow Street, and even an Argyle Street, so I feel quite at home.’ 

‘Animals’ on the rugby field, as Euan puts it, are the only creatures he applies his veterinary skills to these days, but it is a profession he would like to return to when he retires from sport.

‘After graduating in 2003 I immediately turned professional in rugby, but initially I would spend one day a week at a vet practice carrying out some small animal surgery,’ he says.

‘But I realised I had to focus on the rugby if I wanted to be the best and so I don’t have much chance to work with animals any more, though I do occasionally hook up with a local vet who deals with large farm animals.

‘In one sense it was quite hard to move away from the veterinary side of things after all the hard work at University, because it was fairly intense with a high volume of work, but in another sense it was easy because the decision was almost made for me. I’d received a lot of rugby offers and it was the opportunity of a lifetime.

‘I was 23 when I qualified and I realised that I could maybe only be a rugby player for ten years, but I can be a vet for the rest of my life, so it’s something I’d like to go back to when my playing days are over.’

Euan, whose mates nickname him Eugene for his apparent resemblance to Sgt Tackleberry from the Police Academy films, has fond memories of his University days and still maintains contact with his Alma Mater. He also donated funds towards the newly opened £15m Small Animal Hospital.

Although Euan was surprised to be voted Young Alumnus of the Year, his dedication to both the rugby field and his academic field made him a clear contender for the accolade.

He said: ‘It’s an honour to be recognised in this way and nice to be remembered. It brought a smile to my face.’