Taking the next step | Glasgow Warriors and Mackenzie Construction
Today, he might be one of the most highly-rated prospects for both Glasgow Warriors and Scottish rugby.
Yet rewind a decade, and becoming a professional rugby player wasn’t even close to the top of Murphy Walker’s mind.
“To be honest, I never thought that I’d end up playing rugby professionally!” laughed the prop.
“I played a lot of sports growing up, but they were all just a bit of fun.
“It was only as I got older that I thought that this could be something that I could do for a living. I never really had eyes on going pro, but thankfully I was proved wrong because I absolutely love what I do.”
Having made his debut back in October 2021 against the Cell C Sharks, the 22-year-old Walker is one of the latest in a long line of young Scottish talents to have made the step up to the professional arena.
It’s a tradition to which the prop is proud to belong, highlighting the priority placed on giving the next generation of Warriors the best possible environment in which to start their rugby careers.
“My last couple of years in the academy were unbelievably smooth in terms of transitioning to the professional ranks, and that’s testament to the setup we’ve got here,” he explained.
“Small details like working off the same schedule, having your S&C aligned with the pro team, right down to nutrition and analysis – it makes the step up so much easier. Everything’s been brilliantly designed to bridge the gap between the academy and professional rugby.”
Childhood friend and future Glasgow team-mate Angus Fraser nods in agreement. The hooker has his eyes set on being the next to follow in Walker’s footsteps, having graduated from the academy by signing a first professional contract with the Warriors ahead of the 2022/23 campaign.
“The support network between the academy and the club is great,” said the former Dundee Eagle.
“Whether it’s strength and conditioning, physio or specific areas of my game, there’s always someone available to help you out.
“For me as a young guy growing up, moving to Glasgow and taking my first steps in my career, too, the support has honestly been invaluable. It’s helped me massively – I’ve definitely grown up as a person as well as a player.”
Yet it’s not just the club who put a strong emphasis on developing the next generation. For Taylor Lindsay, a trainee engineer with the club’s Official Civil Engineering Partner Mackenzie Construction, having the right support network in place is paramount.
“I started my civil engineering apprenticeship with Mackenzie Construction in August 2019 working within our structural refurbishment team,” explained Lindsay.
“This involved working on clean water tanks on behalf of our client Scottish Water, looking at waterproofing application systems, joint application systems, concrete repairs which all ensures we keep the quality of water high for the client and the public.
“I’ve had great support around me throughout my apprenticeship – from the HR team to my management line and the site operatives and foremen I interact with on-site. There’s always someone to help.
“On-site, the operatives and foremen really encourage you to get involved and learn. There’s a lot of in-house training support and if there’s ever the need for external training they are happy to support us through that too.”
Lindsay is just one of several young apprentices currently taking their first steps in the world of work with Mackenzie Construction, gaining experience in all areas of the business.
? “You’re never really thrown in at the deep end.”
Whether it’s on the field or on a site, developing young talent is key – Glasgow Warriors fly-half @Thompson_Ross10 and Jamie Hislop of @MackenzieConstr sat down to discuss the similarities between their respective careers ? pic.twitter.com/djTWv5yQN8
— Glasgow Warriors (@GlasgowWarriors) July 5, 2021
The opening of Mackenzie’s own in-house training academy in 2020 only served to further support the training and development of the apprentices within their ranks, with yet more skilled staff having been supported through professional adult education courses to prepare them for running effective training sessions at the academy.
“Every day is different,” said Lindsay.
“You’re constantly learning new skills and being faced with new challenges. Part of the enjoyment is figuring out how to overcome these challenges which helps you grow more and more confident.
“To be successful, any apprentice needs to have a good mentor with a wealth of knowledge and experience to help you and it seems to be that way across the Mackenzie Construction team. There is always someone willing to help whether that is the immediate team around you, other trainees or the leadership team and there is no such thing as a silly question.”
At Scotstoun, Assistant Coach Pete Murchie is one of those whose knowledge and experience is helping to shape the next generation of Warriors.
As the former club centurion explains, getting to know those under your wing is an important early step in shaping them into the future stars for club and country.
“First of all, you need to get to know the individual as well as the player,” said Murchie.
“Finding out what motivates them and makes them tick is crucial. It’s then about making them feel comfortable and feel like they can be themselves in our environment. Each player will develop at a different rate, but more often than not if a young player is showing that they’re ready in training, they’re going to stand up and do well.
“You’d be naïve to think that everyone’s journey is just going to keep trending upwards, though. A bump in the road will always come at some stage, whether that’s injury or loss of form, or something else entirely.
“For us, it’s about making sure there’s a network in place to support each player and help them work through it, and keep improving the player in all aspects of their game. We’ve all had those bumps in the road, so it’s about restoring that initial belief of ‘yes, I can do this’.”
That’s a belief echoed by Mackenzie Construction Managing Director Andy Dalrymple, whose company continues to promote young talent wherever an opportunity arises in order to further their development.
“We know that our young people are the next generation of our business,” he said.
“Over the years, we’ve seen great success from hard-working young people who have moved up through the business.
“It is because of this we continue to try and promote from within wherever possible and are committed to ensuring everyone has the training and development opportunities to realise their full potential.”
The two parties came together to discuss the development of young talent at Scotstoun back in March, as the Warriors welcomed a group of young people from Mackenzie Construction. The event also sought to educate Mackenzie Construction’s young employees on the relationship with the Glasgow Warriors, with the group attending the Captain’s Run prior to the home victory over Edinburgh.
It was an event which made an impression on Murchie, as it further underlined the shared values between the club and Mackenzie Construction.
“Seeing that buzz in the room was great,” said Murchie.
“Everyone was asking questions and keen to know more, eager to learn and to take the next steps in their careers.
“The more we can create that learning environment at the club, the better it is for everyone, and it’s great to have sponsors like Mackenzie Construction who really buy into that ethos.”
One of those eager employees in the room was Briony Coyle, with the young Site Engineer quick to highlight the impact the event had on her.
“From the event with the Warriors I can understand why we are partners with the club,” she said.
“We try to be as much like a family as possible and it was good to hear how the Warriors prepare as a team and how they deal with the wins and losses, which was very much in alignment with Mackenzie Construction.”
Our young people have missed out on many key interactions over the past years so we have been running a series of events to bring them together, keep them engaged and create an open discussion around what matters to them.
Indeed, Coyle is just one of the young Mackenzie employees who will benefit from the company’s commitment to developing young talent. The business is putting in place a support network for its young people with the newly-founded Young Person’s Committee and sessions with Mackenzie Construction’s People Ambassador and Paralympic nordic skier Scott Meenagh to provide insights and career motivation which all work towards its young people feeling supported and focused on their careers.
Having both benefitted from such a network during their time in the Glasgow academy, it’s a feeling to which both Fraser and Walker can relate. Whilst they may not have been in attendance at the event themselves, both players have their own pieces of advice for their contemporaries at Mackenzie Construction, as they themselves look to take the next step in their fledgling careers.
“Right from when I first joined the academy, I knew that if I stuck at it and worked hard then I’d be able to take things further,” said Fraser.
“Knowing the guys that you’ve grown up with and played alongside through the age grades, definitely makes things easier. I’ve known Murphy since we were kids, and guys like Ross [Thompson] and Ollie [Smith] for years, and seeing them succeed just makes me want to get out there and play even more.
“The next goal for me is earning my first appearance for this club. The process doesn’t change though – it’s all about working hard and earning that opportunity.”
For Walker, the motivation is simple – and it’s one that hasn’t changed since his first day of running around with Dundee Eagles.
“Enjoyment is a massive factor,” he said.
“If you don’t enjoy what you do, then there’s not really a point in doing it. We’ve been extremely lucky here in the last couple of years to still be able to come in, enjoy time with your mates and go out and play the sport we love.
“You’re never really ‘working’, so to speak, because doing what you love never really feels like working.”