Diocese director and rugby administrator Tony Murphy has died

Tony Murphy, center, when he received the title of Knight of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great in May.  Murphy passed away last Saturday.

WARWICK SMITH / Stuff

Tony Murphy, center, when he received the title of Knight of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great in May. Murphy passed away last Saturday.

Former Manawatū Catholic Church and Rugby administrator Tony Murphy has died.

Murphy was director of the Catholic Diocese of Palmerston North for 18 years and president of the Manawatū Rugby Union for six years.

Murphy, who had lived with cancer in his later years, died last Saturday at the age of 69.

For his church service, he received the title of Knight of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great in May, a title bestowed by Pope Francis.

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Murphy was the director of the diocese for 18 years where he worked locally and nationally, but retired late last year.

At the time, he said it was recognition for the work of everyone in the diocese.

His role in the diocese was to supervise staff, coordinate chaplaincies and advise parish councils, finance committees and school boards.

With the National Catholic Church, he was a member of the finance committee of the New Zealand Bishops’ Federation, a member of the New Zealand Catholic Insurance Scheme committee, and executive chairman of a committee establishing a new board. Catholic Education in Palmerston North.

The Order of Saint Gregory the Great was established in 1831 to honor the citizens of the Papal States and is awarded to individuals who stand out for their personal character and reputation and for their notable achievements.

In rugby circles, Murphy was made a life member of the Manawatū Rugby Union in 2020.

He served on the board of Manawatū from 2000 and was president from 2005 to 2011, a critical period for the union as the Turbos were accepted into the Premier League from 2006.

Three years later, the then New Zealand Rugby Union wanted to reduce the national provincial championship from 14 to 10 teams and Manawatū was in the game.

The Save The Turbos campaign was launched and Murphy wrote a letter stating that Manawatū would take legal action. He attended a meeting in Auckland where it was decided to keep 14 teams.

In 2006, Murphy presided over the departure of coach Charlie McAlister and the New Zealand Rugby Federation proposed three coaches: former Manawatū All Black Kevin Schuler; Josef Schmidt, who had just joined the Blues; and the man Manawatū chose, Dave Rennie.

Murphy was also the Marist secretary and club captain, served on the nominations committee to the Manawatu union board of directors and the Rugby Education Trust, which provides funds to help keep promising players in the area.

He played senior rugby at Whanganui as a utility back for Kaierau and Marton Old Boys, and later for Palmerston North Marist.

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