It’s been a mixed year for the Wallabies with a string of good performances towards the end of the International campaign. There have been sensational displays from the likes of Michael Hooper, Quade Cooper and the truly sublime, Israel Folau. Australia have always been blessed with some extraordinary talent and the national team was saturated with such talent especially during the 90’s and early 21st Century.
With vast ability in the backline during the 90’s, especially on the flanks, Alistair Murdoch managed to represent his country against Wales and France and then decided to venture to the UK where he represented Bedford, Worcester and Exeter respectively. The Winger who was noticeably powerful, then decided to turn his attentions to Powerlifting where his extraordinary strength and dedication has led him to three World Drug-Free Powerlifting titles…and hopefully more are just around the corner.
Here is an insight into Alistair’s sporting experiences and lifestyle-
Not only are you 3 times WDFPF Champion, but you have also represented the Wallabies twice. Which is your single greatest achievement?
I would say representing the Wallabies. It was pretty tough making a team that remained undefeated in the early 90’s for a good while.
You’ve been at an array of clubs during your Rugby Union career, including NSW Waratahs, Bedford and Worcester, but at which club did you think you were playing your best Rugby and why?
I have no doubt I was playing my best rugby in 1996 when I represented my local club Gordon and then represented the New South Wales Waratahs in the first year of Super 12, which culminated with my second Test cap against Wales in the same year.
What were your reasons for deciding to play Rugby in England, rather than remaining in Australia?
It became pretty clear that making it back into the Australian side was going to be difficult with the rise of Ben Tune and Joe Roff in 1997, so I decided to seek an overseas experience and was glad that I chose the UK.
From experiencing International and Club rugby in the 90’s and early 21st century, what would you say has been the most monumental change within the game?
I think the pure physicality and physical preparation of the players has increased dramatically. I was watching the Australia v England World Cup final of 2003 recently and even that looks miles behind the game as it is played today, and it was only ten years ago.
Greatest backline you’ve ever played with/against?
I was lucky to play with a very gifted backline at my local club at Gordon Highlanders. I think every one of us had represented New South Wales or the Wallabies at some stage. Perhaps the best backline was in my first Test with Lynagh, Campese, Horan, Little and Matt Burke alongside me.
I always had a great respect for the backlines of the South African teams I played against – Guys like Joost van der Westhuizen, Hennie Le Roux and James Small. Back in those days they actually used them!
Moving on from your fantastic achievements on a Rugby pitch, to your outstanding record as a Powerlifter, what were your reasons for pushing your body to its limits at this point in your life?
I guess I like a challenge. I was going to the gym after finishing rugby and felt that I wasn’t giving it my all and I needed some competition to give my training some focus. I have always been good at the Bench press so powerlifting seemed the obvious choice.
It’s mightily impressive how you have managed to keep yourself in peak condition, what did you do in the gym and nutritionally between finishing rugby and beginning Powerlifting that allowed you to work towards being the WDFPF Champion?
I was simply doing the exercises that I had done at rugby training with some additional work on the Deadlift which I hadn’t done so much in rugby training as we tended to do more Olympic style lifting from the floor. Nutritionally, I increased my protein intake while reducing my carb intake as powerlifting training involved far less cardio fitness training than is required in rugby.
Are you aiming to win the title for a fourth time, and if so, how are you going to go about trying to improve your; 290kg Deadlift, 250kg Squat and 230.5kg Bench Press?
I have every attention of going to Moldova in October/November next year to compete at the World Drug Free Powerlifting Championships, although the cost is the only prohibiting factor which is why I’m seeking sponsorship.
Like everything improving those personal bests takes time, good nutrition and varying programs to make sure I’m at my absolute peak for the competition and should enable me to improve on those lifts.
With the variety of other Powerlifting organisations such as the IPF and WPF, do you have any desires to turn your attentions to any of these?
I’m only interested in competing with an organisation that is unequivocally opposed to the use of drugs in and out of competition. Some organisations only pay lip service to a “drug free culture”. Currently only the World Drug Free Powerlifting Federation tests at all major competitions and also out of competition and imposes a life time ban for failed tests for steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. In my view only the IPF has a similar stance however it does not impose life time bans currently and many countries affiliated with it have a lax attitude to testing to say the least!
If you had to give a few tips for a wannabe Rugby pro in training, what would they be?
Make sure they improve their weaknesses. Everyone wants to train at the things they’re good at but it’s the things players are bad at that stop them becoming great players. In rugby there is no substitute for speed and skill so everyone should be working on those.
Tips for a wannabe Powerlifter?
Again it’s a matter of doing the basics. Powerlifting is about maximal lifting in Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift so all those lifts should be trained for producing a maximal effort at competition. Although the assistance exercises can help develop the lifts never get away from the basic compound lifts. Oh and your nutrition is vital!
With all the stress and strain you place on your body and rigorous training, what do you day to day to relax and get away from training?
The thing is I love training. For me that’s the relaxation from the day to day stresses of life. Essentially without gym training I’d be wondering what to do with myself. Even now when I have an enforced break after competitions or due to injury I’m itching to get back into the gym.
Best and favourite meal after a session?!
You can do a lot worse than grilled chicken and spinach! Some might say it’s boring but it’s healthy and I feel it’s fuelling me for the rigours of training. After a competition it’s Nandos or a Kiwi burger from GBK as I no longer have to worry about weight limits for a while!
What’s it like being an Australian in England, especially after another English victory in the Autumn Internationals? (Don’t mention the Ashes!!)
It’s great…now after the Aussies are winning a few things again! Of course there’s a lot of banter between my friends and I but it’s all good humoured. The last year has been tough though with the Wallabies losing to the Lions and England and three Ashes series lost. I’ve just had to sit back and take my medicine for all the good times prior to that! Happy to talk about the cricket now after the result in the first Ashes test at the ‘Gabba!
Finally, if you weren’t a former Rugby player or champion Powerlifter, what sport would you have competed in or still be competing in?
I think I’d be a golfer. I wasn’t bad when I played at school but then rugby took over. Those guys seem to earn a great living and can be at the top of their game for a long time competing against guys half their age.
With the 2014 Championships less than a year away, I’d like to wish Alistair all the best in his training in the lead up to the Champs and I hope he can secure yet another title. It’s incredible to see someone in such extraordinary shape at 46 and still pushing physical boundaries!
I won’t mention the Ashes….
Thanks to Alistair for his time. You can follow him on Twitter @armurdoch