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Vale Murray Leeder

Thursday, April 28, 2022 - 11:59 AM

FORMER NT News racing writer and West Perth league footballer Murray Leeder has died in Perth after a long illness, aged 81.

Murray wrote for the paper from 1996 to 2002 and was equally well regarded in the media and throughout the racing industry.

His natural ebullience made him highly popular and easy to like.

Widely read and an entertaining raconteur, he was a powerful voice for Territory racing, forging strong links with the Carbine and Bernborough clubs to provide unprecedented coverage of the Darwin Cup Carnival.

Murray was the consummate sports writer, but also self-published at least two heavily biographical books, one, ‘Revolving Doors’, more than 266,000 words long.

Undying twinkle . . . so determined was Murray Leeder that he was not sick, he dressed up and pulled himself together after daughter Justine told him she had called an ambulance because she was so worried about him. The picture was one of the last taken of him, in February, 2022. Picture: Supplied.

Undying twinkle . . . so determined was Murray Leeder that he was not sick, he dressed up and pulled himself together after daughter Justine told him she had called an ambulance because she was so worried about him. The picture was one of the last taken of him, in February, 2022. Picture: Supplied.

It begins with a 13-verse poem he wrote in 1975 about life in the Territory that features typical turns of phrase that made his racing stories so easy to read and process at production-level deadline.

Before joining the NT News, Murray worked on the defunct Darwin Star and on ABC radio and television.

He used the press to campaign strongly against Australian football being played in the oppressive heat and humidity of the wet season.

There was little to which he couldn’t turn his hand, practically or at the keyboard, and it’s clear that he enjoyed every minute of his writing as he did living life.

He was the typical ocker, not unlike a Paul Hogan, only his pedigree was richer: The Perth suburb of Leederville was named after his great great grandfather, William Leeder, as was West Perth Football Club’s home ground, Leederville Oval.

Almost by calling, ‘Muzza’ played 103 games for the ‘Cardies’ in the then WA National Football League between 1960-70, mostly in defence. Former teammate John Kelly, of Coconut Grove, remembers him as a dependable fullback who could kick well with either foot.

Team of ’65 . . . Murray Leeder, aged 25, in a West Perth club photo that featured the likes of out and out champions Bill Dempsey, Ray Boyanich, Sandover Medallist Brian ‘Big Blue’ Foley and dual Sandover runner-up Mel Whinnen. Picture: Supplied.

Team of ’65 . . . Murray Leeder, aged 25, in a West Perth club photo that featured the likes of out and out champions Bill Dempsey, Ray Boyanich, Sandover Medallist Brian ‘Big Blue’ Foley and dual Sandover runner-up Mel Whinnen. Picture: Supplied.

 

In ‘Revolving Doors’, Murray says his father taught him to box and play cricket, in which he literally made the grade with North Perth.

One of his proudest sporting moments came in 1968 at the height of his WANFL days, when he was named in the Galahs national team that toured Ireland.

In the team was his West Perth captain-coach, Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer, plus a phalanx of other legends: Ron Barassi, Kevin Bartlett, Alex Jesaulenko, Peter Hudson, Neil Kerley and Royce Hart.

At the WAFL level, he played beside all the club’s big names: Brian ‘Blue’ Foley, Ray Boyanich, Mel Whinnen and of course, Bill Dempsey, who began his playing days at the Darwin Buffaloes.

Murray moved from Perth to the NT in May, 1974, to accept a teaching position with the Commonwealth Government. In all, his career was to include four years in Melbourne and six in Perth in the vocation for which he developed a passion that never left him.

As with life in general, Murray was an ‘everyman’ at the blackboard, specialising in most subjects, including mathematics. He taught at Moil, Rapid Creek, Ludmilla, Berrimah, Berry Springs, Humpty Doo and Larrakeyah primary schools and helped establish the one at Woolaning, near Wangi Falls.

Barebacks and both willing to give their all . . . Murray Leeder had a way with nags as well as people. Picture: Supplied

Barebacks and both willing to give their all . . . Murray Leeder had a way with nags as well as people. Picture: Supplied

 

After Cyclone Tracy, he played a big role in restorations and repairs on schools she damaged or wrecked on Christmas eve, in ’74. Lost forever, though, was his collection of sporting memorabilia, which included the green Australian blazer he earned six years earlier.

Another venture into which he threw his heart and soul almost brought him to grief. The Finnis River Store, which he built and ran from the early 1980s to the mid 90s, was a lifeline for locals and valuable stop-off for tourists to Wangi Falls.

Daughter Justine remembers baking scones and taking them with jam and cream to busloads of grateful passengers.

The river once flooded, she said, cutting off a nearby Aboriginal community that was left without supplies.

“Dad loaded up the troop-carrier with food to take across the river for them,” Justine said.

“It was a dicy exercise. He nearly got swept off the road. But he got there and back safely.”

With his yearn to learn, which included Bahasa Indonesian, at which he became proficient enough to teach professionally, he became quite the font of knowledge.

Talking horses . . . Muz with a Fannie Bay fancy. Picture: Supplied.

Talking horses . . . Muz with a Fannie Bay fancy. Picture: Supplied.

So good was he at winning people’s trust, he grew to know well the family of Nova Peris, who, as a nine-year-old, he predicted would represent Australia in hockey and running.

It’s fair to say that he was a principal agent of inspiration because that’s exactly what she did, going on to win Olympic gold in the former and a Commonwealth gold in the latter.

Other local indigenous children similarly came to regard him as a close family friend.

They knew him as a sports administrator and from his umpiring days, which came after a stint in the NTFL playing for Nightcliff Tigers, then coaching them and Darwin Buffaloes.

Like many of his ilk, devotion to the nags set in relatively early.

But when he tired of losing money to bookies, he studied the maths behind the business, firstly as a clerk and penciller, then by putting it into practice with his own stand at Fannie Bay races, and at the Winnellie Park Greyhound track.

In partnership with good mate Jim McPherson, he ran a tiling business, a real estate agency, an insurance company and a successful horse stable. His agency later became a fish buyer’s for a Perth-based fish market.

One of the many roads to Damascus explored by the 185cm sojourner was a foray into politics which, in 1983, saw him run as a candidate for the Australian Democrats in the NT elections.