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Soul-searching Murphy finds joy in Titanic turnaround

By her own admission, Karyn Murphy wasn't ready to coach the Gold Coast Titans last season.

"I was really under prepared," she says.

Asked about the side's bottom-placed finish in 2022 this week - where the Titans won just one of five games to miss the finals in her maiden campaign - she pauses before offering more of a response. 

"It was no one else's fault. There were frustrations from myself that I didn’t have time in fairness to the club and the girls.

"I arrived from my old job at the NRL on day one of pre-season and everything felt rushed. The only positive I took out of it myself as a coach was I gave it everything I could."

Murphy, the former NRL Integrity Unit boss and ex-Australian captain, used the off season to "soul search", which included giving up her role as Jillaroos assistant coach prior to last year's World Cup.

"You do a lot of thinking with everything that happened there, particularly being the competitive person I am," she said.

"I knew as much as it was disappointing on the field I felt there were some positives that you could see from the players in that time and the best part was that there were so many areas and opportunities to improve."

The 2022 season was a tough initiation for coach Karyn Murphy.
The 2022 season was a tough initiation for coach Karyn Murphy. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

Fast forward 12 months and Murphy has guided the Titans into their maiden grand final - a first for the Gold Coast club in both the men's and women's senior competitions.

Murphy also becomes the first female coach to guide an NRLW side to a grand final in a feat not lost on her.

"It’s humbling and been a massive 12 months since starting this role, it really has," she said.

"I do believe it’s made easier by the coaching and support staff and girls massively. They’ve bought into everything we’ve tried to achieve in such a short space of time.

"Being the only female to reach a grand final so far adds to the occasion but there’s a lot of women who have coached before I have.

"We’ve got Tahnee Norris who has coached at Burleigh on the Gold Coast and has won so many premierships here who deserves some recognition.

"We’ve got so many more female coaches in the state competition coming through.

"Tahnee and Kylie Hilder are also at the Origin level and Brad Donald’s got some female coaches with him at the Jillaroos level. It’s such an exciting time in our game.

"The players are coming through and so too are administrators and coaches. I’m sure in a few more years' time there will be more female coaches in the NRLW."

Steph Hancock and Karyn Murphy at a Queensland Origin launch in 2019.
Steph Hancock and Karyn Murphy at a Queensland Origin launch in 2019. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

Murphy makes it no secret she's envious of the current playing group across the competition who get to represent NRL clubs on a weekly basis but coaching is a close second best. 

Her squad ranges from six players still in their teenage years to 41-year-old Steph Hancock, who Murphy played alongside for majority of her playing days. 

"To be there in my role now coaching on the biggest day of the year, I never would’ve thought that could've happened in the women's game," she said.

"Over 10 years ago I would’ve doubted there’d even be an NRLW competition and that girls could play for NRL clubs.

"There were a lot of steps forward but also plenty of steps backwards in my time.

Knights v Titans: Grand Final

"To have that competition now and it’s not going anywhere, it’s only going to get bigger and better, is amazing."

The Titans will go into Sunday's NRLW decider as underdogs - a common theme for them this season - but Murphy knows if they play to their potential they're a good chance of rattling the Knights.

"I want them to know it is going to be a different game and week but keep believing and don’t change what has got us to where we are," she said.

"It’s a massive opportunity. I don’t want the girls to have any regrets."

Acknowledgement of Country

Gold Coast Titans proudly acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we are situated, the Kombumerri families of the Yugambeh Language Region. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging, and recognise their continuing connections to the lands, waters and their extended communities throughout South East Queensland.