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Getting to Know: Annelee Murray

She’s the former long-standing PR Manager of the Springboks and now she’s written a book, called ‘The First Lady of Springbok Rugby’, covering over two decades with the national rugby team.

Q: What was your first job in rugby?
A: I started at SA Rugby as the PR Manager, looking after the corporate side and all the brands. 

Q: When did you first join the Springboks and what have been the various roles you’ve held with the team?
A: I joined the team at the end of 2000 while I was still looking after the other SA Rugby brands and by 2005 was with the team full time. My role was not classic corporate PR – it included the team’s image, administration, gatekeeper to the team, signing sessions, visas, liaising with embassies and government, and much much more. As part of an operations team, you pretty much do whatever is required.

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?
A: This has been a 20-year journey. It’s consumed so much of my life and was such an integral part of me and the enrichment of my life as a result of this journey. I had unique insight into this high-performance world that’s something that’s probably unknown to many people and they don’t see what it takes to get a team onto the pitch. They see the 80 minutes on the field, which are the most important each week, but what goes on behind the scenes is also what gets them to perform for those 80 minutes – the coaching and training, video and opposition analysis, gym training, physio and rehab, hours of strategy meetings, PR and commercial obligations, are all part of each week.

Q: What else?
A: All the opportunities I was afforded and the amazing memories I’ve made. What makes these players tick is something I wanted to share with people. Having been a female in a male-dominated industry in the early years and for breaking through barriers, I felt this book could be inspirational to the next generation who have a passion to work in the sports industry. I wanted to document my time with the team, the learnings, highs and lows, and give the public an insight into what goes on behind the scenes. I was lucky enough to work with amazing women, who brought competencies and empathy to an environment that enhanced the team environment. I like to think that I provided a safe haven to the guys and assisted them with many things, so that they could concentrate on playing rugby. My job was a nurturing one and not just about managing schedules or diaries. It was the aspect of the team knowing consistency and me always having their backs.

Q: What’s your favourite story from your time with the Boks?
A: I have so many wonderful happy memories and stories, but having lunch with Mr Mandela in his kitchen in Cape Town with coach Jake White has top place. I got a call from his assistant Zelda one morning, asking what Jake was doing in an hour’s time, and if we wanted to pop over to have lunch with Madiba. We dropped everything and raced off to this special invitation.

HAVE YOU READ?: Getting to Know – Karen Smithies

Q: Tell us something that goes on behind the scenes that the average fan or journalist just wouldn’t know.
A: I feel this is my opportunity to get you to read my book!

Q: Give us a sense of how SA Rugby has changed as an organisation since you first joined it?
A: As with all sporting organisations, the arrival of the digital age has changed the way you deliver certain products and how you interact. You have to be more on top of your game, as everything is instant.

Q: Has Covid-19 changed the sports PR and comms space, and if so, how?
A: Yes, everyone has had to be more innovative in this space, in some ways.

Q: What’s your view on ‘content’ and the role you believe it should play in any PR and comms strategy?
A: Authentic, good content wields great influence. Public perception is everything and relationships with all stakeholders are influential.

Q: What are your interests away from rugby?
A: Cooking, reading, family time, watching NFL, golf and Formula 1.

Q: What are you doing now and what does the future hold for Annelee Murray?
A: Spending more time at home and being able to attend my pilates classes. I’m still working on a contractual basis and am enjoying watching my beloved Boks from my couch.

Dylan Rogers
Dylan Rogers

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