On July 31, 2017, Les Murray passed away. On the third anniversary of that day, Lucy Zelic pens a letter to Les to express her gratitude for all he did for SBS and football.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since you left us.
In the time that you’ve been gone, there have been endless changes but one thing has always remained the same - you are missed, so, so much.
There have been countless tears shed and moments where we have all just wished we could see you again but we have always drawn our greatest strength from having known you and upholding the values you left us with us.
There have been many things that you have missed but perhaps one of the most difficult realities, in addition to losing you, was knowing that we would be going to the 2018 Russia World Cup without you.
For the first time since the organisation began covering the tournament, audiences would be starved of your wonderfully dulcet tones, your expertise, passion and incomparable knowledge.
Put simply, a World Cup without the legendary Laszlo Urge just wasn’t right and at the time I felt an indescribable feeling of incompetence, knowing that I would never, ever be able to fill your shoes.
But, as your beloved friend Craig Foster aptly put it to me, my job wasn’t to replace you, it was to carry on the legacy that both you and Johnny Warren had worked tirelessly to create.
So, we set off for Moscow knowing that even though you weren’t there, the best way to honour your memory was to cover the game with the respect you had always demanded it deserved and by doing so, you remained alive in our hearts, minds and on our television screens.
When our original broadcasting plans changed rapidly, you would have been so proud of the commitment the entire team showed to putting all of the games to air - particularly Fozz.
Before our very eyes, he morphed into both a football and cultural icon - educating audiences on the importance of observing a player’s heritage, delighting us all with his knowledge of the Uruguayans ‘La Garra Charrua spirit, advocating for the recognition of Indigenous Australians and all the while, tactically analysing every team in finite detail.
Bidding farewell to him on-air a month ago became the next most difficult goodbye I’ve had to say in the last three years after you but just like you, Fozz is destined for extraordinary things and the world is yet to see what he is truly capable of.
His efforts with freeing falsely detained Bahraini footballer, Hakeem al-Araibi in 2019 were the mark of the man and also of the teachings you instilled in all of us about the importance of human rights because to know you, was to know about life’s most important values, through the lens of football and beyond.
When SBS’s coverage of the tournament was humbly acknowledged with a Logie in 2019, I remember shedding private tears at the time, wishing you had been there to enjoy it with us - it evoked moments of celebration but also feelings of great, great sadness.
From a personal perspective, I fell madly in love with a footballer, something I’d always told you and others I’d never ever do and last year, we welcomed our baby girl Mila into the world.
She is by far my best accomplishment in this life and for the first time, I’ve felt completely whole. At 15 months old, Mila looks just like her father, is bright, determined and already showing enormous signs of sassiness, although I have no idea where she gets that from!
Your own family was always so important to you and even though you had sacrificed so much of your life to the football mission you had embarked on, your role as a father and grandfather always gave you a far greater purpose.
You will also be so pleased to know that your beautiful partner Cida continues to bring us so much joy that we have known and loved her ever since she came into your life.
She misses you every day and while the ache in her heart is so palpable, I am so glad that you both got to experience a love so pure and genuine for all the years that you were together.
The World Cup experience in Russia would not have been the same without her and we’re all so grateful that we got to share it with her - I know you would be enormously proud of the woman that she is and the incredible strength she has shown.
Everyone from Fozz and his beautiful wife Lara to Zdrila, Lydia Taylor, Bash and many others from the SBS fraternity continue to treat her with the love and respect she deserves - she well and truly has become apart of our respective families.
One thing that has hilariously continued to stay the same throughout all of this, is the state of the game and I know that both you and Johnny would be debating it furiously together up in the football field in the sky over a couple of vino relaxos.
In amidst my frustrations, I can’t help but laugh sometimes knowing that you were having the same conversations decades ago - Australian football has always been a funny old thing, hasn’t it?
But, in what has arguably been one of the greatest moments for the game, Australia and New Zealand were able to secure the rights to host the Women’s World Cup in 2023 and I can only imagine the sheer joy you would have felt when it was announced.
There are so many moments that we wish you were still here for and those feelings won’t ever change - to lose you, was to lose an unparalleled giant of the game and life.
The one saving grace is that your memory lives on in everything that we do - from the way we observe the game, treat it and love it.
You were a jogo bonito evangelist, a humanitarian, a gentleman and father figure to so many of us and although time heals all wounds, your absence has left a gaping hole in our hearts that won’t ever be repaired.
So my friend, although we may remember this date as the day we lost you, the impact you had on this life extends well beyond the physical because the memory of you dear Les, is immortal.
Say hello to Johnny and the rest of the greats from all of us and enjoy a cigarette with a glass of red on my behalf for old times sake - Lord knows we did enough of that.
All my love,