Unlocking Aboriginal culture key to Emilia Murray’s game

17-year-old Emilia 'Milsy' Murray is embracing many positives in her life – the evidence clear in her footballing rise.

Adelaide United speedster, Emilia ‘Milsy’ Murray, has found the biggest strides in her game by embracing her Aboriginal culture in recent years.

The 17-year-old made her debut last year for United women and played her ten matches off the bench, featuring in a stacked Adelaide midfield.

Murray is a proud Dhudhuroa and Yorta Yorta woman from the north-eastern Victorian border of New South Wales on her dad’s side, whilst her mum is of Greek heritage.

Her father, Derek Murray, and uncle, Allan Murray, played in the AFL for Port Adelaide and St Kilda respectively, yet Murray fell in love with football while playing with her older siblings in small-sided games across Albury-Wodonga where she was born.

Emilia Murray playing for Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium.

“Mum got me to do everything as a young kid,” Murray said. “I did ballroom dancing, cricket, AFL, basketball, swimming, athletics as well.

“After doing athletics and soccer at the same time, I stopped doing everything because I realised soccer was for me and that became my focus.”

Murray had perhaps often put her Aboriginal heritage to one side given she had grown up as the only First Peoples person in a small town and she spent most of her childhood with her mother. But she found her way back to her Aboriginal roots with an assist from the GO Foundation, established by former Sydney Swans footballers Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin as a scholarship program for Indigenous students.

The foundation’s motto is ‘Empowering through Education’ to make a real change to the lives of Indigenous youths.

“Twice a year we have a GO cultural foundation day where they come down from Sydney and we do activities together.

“Only a few weeks ago we made boomerangs with kids from a primary school that came down and that was really inspiring, and the kids were so cute.

“They’ve helped me out a lot and one time they even gave me an indigenous guernsey.”

Emilia Murray training for the Reds at Marden Sports Complex.

Milsy’s time with the GO Foundation coincided with her rapid rise to the United first team and her current highest honour of selection in two young Matildas training camps held earlier this year.

If she were to list specific idols in her life, Murray can’t go past her mother, Lena, Cathy Freeman, and Matildas star, Sam Kerr, from the modern game.

“Being in athletics as a youngster, of course Cathy Freeman was someone I looked up to, and Sam Kerr is just so good from an Australian and Chelsea FC perspective,” Murray said.

“But I really appreciate my mum as well for making me try everything and guiding me through life.

“This all fuelled my motivation to combine sprinting and make it as far as I can in football.”

And the pacy winger is looking to add regular starts to her growing Reds résumé, even amidst the “crazy squad” that is assembling ahead of the 2022/23 season.

“I’m hoping to get as much game time as I can and hopefully push into that starting eleven, which might be pretty tough considering the squad we have this year especially,” she admitted.

“Regardless, the atmosphere is so good, it’s like a family, and I’m really enjoying being involved.”

The first time Murray ever walked onto Coopers Stadium, it was in a 70m box-to-box sprint in the ‘Dash for Cash’ competition in April 2019. At just 14-years-old and running against older, local WNPL players, Murray won the race on the hallowed Hindmarsh turf by a nose-length during half-time of the men’s United and Melbourne Victory clash.

Emilia Murray taking out the Dash for Cash in 2019 at Coopers Stadium (image by Sarah Reed).

And she credits this is also as a key source of motivation for her to run out on Coopers in the Adelaide United red for real.

“Winning that sprint on the Coopers pitch where I had watched so many games gave me that taste of it and made me think that I really want to play here.

“I was on the big screen and with a full stadium and everything and it’s still such a big blur.”

Murray also worked with former Reds captain and Aboriginal Australian, Travis Dodd, and ex-Reds goalkeeper, Evelyn Goldsmith, in Dodd’s South Australia’s Aboriginal Secondary Training Academy program, which she also credits as aiding her personal, professional, and sporting development.

“These sorts of cultural programs and courses have helped me understand my culture and my people and I’ve really embraced it in recent years.

“It has helped me improve as a player but, most importantly, as person.”

United has partnered with the John Moriarty Foundation this Indigenous Football Week upon the Club’s Hindmarsh homecoming this weekend.

We commit to celebration inclusion, ensuring our game is culturally safe, and promoting opportunities for Aboriginal Australians in football and education.

To donate to the John Moriarty Foundation, click here.

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