Tragedy spurred career change for survivor

LATE one steamy Saturday night 10 years ago, Max Murphy, a 28-year-old Australian expat, was in the Sari Club in Kuta, talking to a mate, Peter Chworowsky, about his plans for the future. 

Earlier that day, the two had played for the Taipei Baboons in the Bali Tens rugby tournament, an annual 10-a-side competition that draws teams from Asia and Australia. While the other "Baboons", including his brother Scott, danced and drank, Mr Murphy wondered aloud about leaving his job as a computer parts salesman.

"I remember telling Peter how I'd to really love to start a sports bar in Taipei," Mr Murphy said. "Then I got up to go the loo, and was coming back when I heard the first bomb go off across the road. But it didn't sound like a bomb - it sounded like firecrackers. In fact, everyone in the Sari Club started cheering and clapping."

Moments later, the second, much larger bomb, went off, right outside, hurling Mr Murphy to the ground, where he lay buried under the club's thatched roof. "I thought, if I don't get out now, I'm going to get trampled to death," he said.

Crawling from the rubble, he heard Scott calling his name, and followed his voice to a nearby wall, where they helped other survivors scramble out of the burning building.

"Five members of the team - all the guys who were dancing - died that night," Mr Murphy said. "There was also another of our guys, Morne Viljone, who was missing, so we spent the rest of the night searching every hospital we could find, going through wards, pulling back curtains, till we found him."

Mr Viljone had suffered burns to 45 per cent of his body. "But he was alive at least, so we got him evacuated to Darwin."

Now, 10 years later, the Baboons are back in Bali.

"On Friday there will be a memorial at the old field we played on that day of the bombing,'' Mr Murphy, who plays five-eighth, said.

They will also play on Saturday and Sunday ''when there will be a memorial match with players from teams who played in the 2002 tournament".

Mr Murphy, who is now the father of a seven-month-old daughter, said it was "pure luck" who survived and who didn't that night. "People often ask me if I am angry, but I'm not really; I just feel sad that it ever happened."

However, the tragedy did make that much-discussed career change much easier.

"After Bali, I thought, 'Screw this, I want to do something with my life that I enjoy'.''

So in 2003, Mr Murphy and some other survivors started up the Brass Monkey Bar in Taipei.

Together with members of the Baboons, the bar has raised thousands of dollars for the Bali Trust Fund, which assists victims such as Mr Viljone with medical costs, as well funding the development of rugby in Taiwan.

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