PFA Chief Executive John Didulica pays tribute to Les Murray after his passing today.

By JOHN DIDULICA | PFA Chief Executive 

I never really had a conversation with my father growing up. There always seemed to be too much in the way. Language, culture clashes, generational divide.

As I grew older and had my own family, like many other fathers and sons no doubt, the concept of a two-way discussion starts. But whilst living under the same roof, at least in my household and those of the kids in my neighbourhood, parents spoke and children listened. There might be an exchange of sentences but there was little engagement. I was a prop to be lectured.

This changed for three hours every week. One hour on a Saturday afternoon and two hours on a Sunday morning. World Soccer, Italian Soccer and “On the Ball”.

For those three hours, I would speak and my father would listen. He would speak and I would be interested. He would ask my opinion and ask me to explain the latest saga engulfing the NSL. We would compare notes on the great players. The great teams.

The reason for this was Les Murray.

My father, as a European migrant, would trust Les and his world view. I would trust Les too. A man not afraid to speak about football without a cultural filter. He was a direct portal to the dignity and respect in which we wanted football to be treated. When he chastised David Hill, we would cheer. When he pronounced the Balkan surnames correctly, we would smile and nod in agreement. He bridged the gap that existed between my father and I; somebody from the old world that he was a part of speaking to the new world that was mine. He legitimised our experience as authentic, football-loving Australians.

In my lifetime, only he and Johnny Warren had such an impact.

Later in life I would have an opportunity to meet Les as a professional. My favourite memory is of a football conference the PFA conducted in 2005 at the University of Sydney. As the vice-chancellor reached the podium to officially open the conference, I noticed Les leave his seat and step into the giant glass courtyard. As the vice-chancellor spoke of the history and sanctity of the building in which we were in and that, under no circumstances, should anyone smoke, Les reached deep into the pocket of his beige jacket, pulled out a pack of ciggies and sparked one up. All the time staring deep into the eyes of the vice-chancellor, oblivious to what was being said.

Les was always a huge supporter of Australian players and the role the players had in contributing to football. In the PFA’s time of need in between the NSL and A-League, as Head of SBS, he wouldn’t stand in the way of Craig Foster returning to Chair the PFA to ensure the ship could be steadied.

Recently, he would reach out and ask whether we could meet with the team from Southern Expansion and provide the players perspective on the operation of a team in the A-League and W-League.

Few in the game are without faults and even fewer so invested in the game are without foes. I will forever be thankful to Les for bringing so many people together. For having the courage to fight for football. For showing that loving this game did not diminish you as an Aussie but in fact imposed an obligation on you to show how much greater football could make this country.