Signal gears Turbos up for challenge
One of the originals with the Turbos from 2006, Murray Signal, will experience his third Ranfurly Shield challenge with Manawatu at New Plymouth on Saturday.
Last week when the Turbos played Counties-Manukau, it was his 75th game - as assistant manager.
He is the only unpaid volunteer in the Turbos' camp, and vividly remembers his first shield challenge, against Auckland at Eden Park in 2008.
That was lost 25-3 and then came the Canterbury challenge in 2009, also lost, by 50-26.
So they haven't been his high points.
The best was when Manawatu beat Canterbury at Jade Stadium in 2008, the lowest when the Turbos lost away to Auckland in injury-time in 2009.
"Some of the boys were crying on the paddock that day," he recalled.
Not that he gets to see all of the play.
He misses 30 minutes of each match because 10 minutes before halftime he is in the changing room filling drinking cups. And he stays behind for 20 minutes to mix up the players' protein shakes.
Each morning he rises at 3am and starts his paid work at 4am at Doughboys Bakery in Palmerston North. By 1pm he is finished and off to the Turbos' training at Massey University.
"I love it, I wouldn't do it otherwise," he said. "And the boys appreciate what I do."
In his first season, the players shouted him a trip to Australia.
"My perk out of it is going away with them. I've been to more places around New Zealand since I've been doing the rugby."
On game day he is responsible for all of the playing gear, setting up the changing room, shorts and socks, towels, water bottles, drinks and helping trainer Scott Pinfold on game days.
Signal has been around since Charlie McAlister was coach, after being enlisted by assistant coach Bruce Hemara.
"He called me into the office one day and asked if I was interested in being involved."
One day Signal arrived at training to find McAlister was gone after a players' putsch and soon after John Knowles was brought in as team manager. "They said to me, ‘you're still with us'."
Besides the Turbos, he has filled the same role with the Feilding Yellows seniors for six seasons and for seven has been with Manawatu and Central Maori. Before that he had been the Freyberg man on the Saturday Morning Board before managing Manawatu under-11s and 13s, which had players like Andre Taylor and Aaron Cruden, then the Manawatu under-20s.
He played rugby at intermediate school in Feilding but was too small at high school so he took up football and helped establish the Feilding AFC club, of which he is a life member. When he was at Feilding Old Boys he played both sports.
- © Fairfax NZ News