Halbergs nod won't distract Murray

World champion: Tom Murray
World champion: Tom Murray

These are exciting times for Marlborough sportsman Tom Murray.

The 19-year-old Central RPC and Blenheim Rowing Club rising star has a couple of big dates coming up and he's keen to make a good impression at both.

Tonight the world under-23 eights champion will be centre stage at the Westpac Halberg Awards at Auckland's Vector Arena, a glittering affair featuring the superstars of New Zealand sport. Murray has been nominated in the emerging talent category and is looking forward to rubbing shoulders with the best of the best.

"I have never been to a black tie event," Murray admitted, "but I've hired a tux and I'm very excited to be going. My family will be there. Mum and my sister Lauren have been shopping for new clothes to wear so it will be quite an experience.

"I didn't know much about the Halbergs so I did a bit of research when Rowing NZ told me I was being nominated.

"When I found out how big they were it was a bit of a shock. Any one of the [NZ rowing] eight that I was in could have been nominated. I'm just chuffed it was me."

Murray will vie for the award with several other rising stars, some also world champions, and he feels for those who have to make the final decision.

"I have had a look over the other finalists," he said, "I'm just glad I'm not a judge."

Also on his busy schedule is the national rowing championships, which begin at Lake Karapiro on Tuesday, a virtual trial for NZ selection in 2014, and Murray is adamant the Halbergs won't be a distraction.

"Nothing is going to take my mind off the nationals," he stressed.

"They make the selections for NZ squads the week after, so I am driving back straight after the awards so I can get on the water first thing in the morning."

Murray, a member of the Rowing NZ summer squad based at Lake Karapiro, has welcomed the arrival of the rest of the Central RPC members who travelled north from their Wairau River training base on Monday.

"We had our first couple of rows with the Central squad on Tuesday and they went reasonably well. But we only have until Tuesday to put things together. I went out in the pair with Corey [McCaffrey] and that went quite well.

"There were lots of recreational boats out on the lake but we worked around them, just fine tuning the boat."

Although Murray has had a couple of niggling injuries to deal with over the past month he has shaken those off and can't wait for the action to begin.

Although he is still eligible to row under 20 at the nationals, the national selectors have insisted they want to see him perform in the under 22 and premier sections.

He is scheduled to crew the under 22 eight, the under 22 pair with McCaffrey, the premier coxless four and the premier eight, although he's not sure if he will be in action in the four.

Murray has relished his first stint with the Central summer squad at Karapiro.

"It all went a lot quicker than I thought it would. We have been looked after really well. The time just flew past."

Being based near the venue for the 2014 nationals means minimal disruption for Murray when the champs begin, an advantage he acknowledges.

"I have almost been flatting up here for a year, so it seems like a second home now. We are all really excited for the nationals."

The Marlborough Express