FORMER Plymouth Albion captain Jake Murphy still has ambitions to play in National One, despite dropping down a league to join Barnstaple.
Murphy signed for the north Devon side this week after failing to agree a new contract with Albion.
The Cornwall centre skippered Plymouth last season and featured in 22 of their 30 league games, scoring six tries.
The 28-year-old former St Boniface School pupil is sad to be leaving Brickfields, but is now looking forward to a new start at Barnstaple.
Murphy, though, has not given up hopes of playing at a higher level again in the future.
“I am at the age now where I am closer to retirement than carrying on,” said Murphy. “So dropping down there is that worry about whether I will get back up there again.
“I still want to test myself at the highest level. I am not resigned to the fact that I am dropping down. I am excited about the new challenge.
“I personally want to keep testing myself. I’ve had a taste of National One again with Plymouth and I would love to get up there again.
“It’s just a case of me getting my head down and working hard with Barnstaple and seeing what happens.”
Murphy says whatever does happens in the future he will never forget his season with Albion.
“It was the best year of my rugby career,” said Murphy, who had eight seasons playing National League rugby with Launceston before joining Albion.
“It was easily the best and most enjoyable year I’ve had. There was the best bunch of lads – it was just top.”
Murphy also says he was honoured to captain Albion.
“Captaincy was pretty far from my mind when I joined the club,” he said.
“When I turned up and saw there was Tom Bedford, Marc Koteczky and Ethan Ford, who could also play 13 as well, it was just a case of me getting my head down and just seeing if I could even get into the squad.
“To get the captaincy did come as a bit of a shock and Graham (Dawe) was so calm about telling me.
“I think it also helped my rugby taking on that role.
“Even though I had been around for quite a long time I had never had a captaincy role. It was fantastic.
“When I hang up my boots and look back on what I did, captaining Plymouth Albion will rank pretty high.
“It wasn’t too shabby a year either. I will look back on that with some pride.”
Murphy felt the Albion team exceeded all expectations last season by winning 22 out of their 30 matches. Up until the final few weeks of the season they were still in with a chance of promotion when at the start of the season people were worried they might get relegated after losing 32 players in the summer.
“Graham picked up a few of the Cornwall lads who had been playing National Two and it was a step up for the majority of the squad,” said Murphy.
“I think if you asked people at the start of the season I think honestly they would have said we would be fighting or dancing with relegation.
“But I think that helped us. When you read stuff like that it did add motivation. I think the boys stepping up from National Two, like myself, felt like that extra motivation to prove people wrong and prove to yourself that you are good enough to step up to the next level.
“Graham should write a book on how he managed to put that squad together because it was pretty impressive. When he took over he didn’t have that much time to look around for players so he did a great job.”
The club’s policy last season was to try and have a large part of their squad made up of players with West Country links.
“Keeping it quite local helped,” said Murphy. “People who are close to the area have a special feeling and want to play for the club – I think you saw that week-in, week-out, apart from a couple of mishaps.”
When asked what his high points were last season, Murphy said: “There were probably two highlights for me. One was going up to Wharfedale when it was minus whatever degrees and I could not feel any of my fingers or toes for the majority of the game.
“Getting a win there was a massive cohesion point for the team. There would have been a lot of teams who would not have stuck at it and got the win.
“Also, Fylde away when we were 20-odd points down and looking like we were going to be on the end of a hammering. Coming back and winning I think gave us mental toughness. From then on we knew we were a good enough team and we went on a great run from then.
“Those two games stood out and, personally, scoring a hat-trick against Coventry, which was pretty nice because, as I said at the time, I don’t venture near that whitewash too often.”
He would love to be involved in the black and gold shirt of Cornwall next season.
“After having a tough end to the season and not playing to manage to get the Cornwall shirt back on and having a great championship was phenomenal,” said Murphy. “Fingers crossed I’ll have a good season next year. I would love to play for Cornwall, but I’ve got to work hard to make sure I get selected.”
Although Murphy has left Brickfields, Albion are expected to add to their Cornwall contingent by signing lock Todd Prisk from St Ives.
The 21-year-old spent the first half of last season at National One side Fylde after joining them from Redruth, where he made 17 appearances – 12 starts – during the 2014/15 in National Two South.
The England Counties Under-20 international made six starts and two replacement appearances for Fylde, including one against Albion, but he failed to settle in Lancashire and return to Cornwall, joining his hometown club St Ives.
Meanwhile, Albion and Cornwall’s Matt Shepherd will start at scrum-half for England Counties in their final match of the tour of Canada against Ontario Blues on Saturday evening (8.30pm BST).
Former Albion player Dan Williams will start in the second-row, with Tom Cowan-Dickie and Freddie Gabbitass on the bench.
Cowan-Dickie and Williams have both been linked with possible returns to Brickfields.