IF YOU happened to order a flat white at a café in Hawthorn on Sunday, you might not have even realised it was Nathan Murphy pouring your coffee at Whiplash. But it was. 

The Collingwood defender has been flying under the radar, but not for much longer. 

Right now, Murphy is undefeated in 2022. The Magpies have won 10 in a row since he returned to Craig McRae's side for the trip to face Fremantle in round 10. 

Most players don't win 10 consecutive games across the duration of a 10-year career, but Murphy has compiled the streak during a patch that has ignited a career previously disrupted by one injury setback after another. 

Nathan Murphy celebrates Collingwood's win over Gold Coast in round 16, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

The morning after Collingwood beat Port Adelaide by six points to win another thriller – the seventh single-digit win during this streak – Murphy was on the tools at the café he opened in June with Jordan Roughead, Brody Mihocek and Callum Brown.

"It is a bit of a running gag at the moment. I am very aware of it [the winning streak]. I have a lot of people messaging me about it," Murphy told AFL.com.au after Saturday's win.

Murphy has been due some luck when you consider the challenges he has faced with his body since the Magpies selected the cricket convert from Brighton Grammar with pick No.39 in the 2017 NAB AFL Draft. 

The 22-year-old played two games in his debut season in 2018 but didn't play senior football again until round six last year due to a range of different injuries, adding 15 games to his name in 2021.

Nathan Murphy in action for Collingwood against Essendon in round six, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

But just when he looked set to lock down a role in McRae's new-look backline, Murphy dislocated his ankle against Greater Western Sydney after landing awkwardly in the AAMI Community Series, wiping out the first half of the season. 

The former underage Australian wicketkeeper and batsman has never let the interruptions deter him, finding silver lining along the way to ensure no time is ever wasted. He bought a house in Torquay, ticked off some subjects at uni and opened Whiplash, where the bagels and sangers have quickly become a hit with the locals, especially for those nursing a hangover on Sundays. 

"I'm a big believer in everything happening for a reason; I think a big part of it was just my body not being ready, being too skinny and needing to put on some weight. Sometimes it's a blessing in disguise," Murphy said. 

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"It's annoying to be injured, but you've got to make the most of crappy situations sometimes. It's helped me with the café, helped me with uni, so you don't want to be injured but I think it's helped me find balance. 

"Early on I was just footy, footy, footy. It's taught me what I like and what I need outside of football so I can enjoy this. It is tough if it's just football the whole time."

One problem with Murphy before this season was where to play the 192cm, 97kg utility who has never been short on courage, but had struggled to find a position on the ground to suit his athletic gifts. 

Now he has found a home in defence alongside two of Collingwood's vice-captains – Darcy Moore and Jeremy Howe – with NAB AFL Rising Star favourite Nick Daicos, Brayden Maynard, John Noble and Isaac Quaynor forming an imposing backline group that has helped the Magpies springboard up the ladder from second bottom last year to third spot after round 20. 

Isaac Quaynor and Nick Daicos celebrate after Collingwood's win over Essendon in round six, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"I think I've always been someone who can read the play well. Last year I started some games on a wing, moved forward and moved back. I was really grateful that I got 15 games under my belt last year, got the experience and it was all about locking in a position, which I believe is in the backline for me," he said.

"My strengths are probably my one on one and aerial. With 'Fly' I don't have to go out and have 20-odd touches because I'm probably not the best ball user, I'll leave that up to Daics and Darce and others. I just know what I need to do. They are making us play to our strengths. It's a lot easier being around Darcy and Howey and I can just lock down my opponent so they can do their thing. It's a great system we've got in place."

At first glance, you can be forgiven for mistaking Murphy for Moore in the heat of battle. They have similar frames, similar manes and play similar roles. It is a conundrum for commentators and statisticians, but not a problem for Collingwood, which has found a replacement for Roughead after he was forced to retire earlier this season. 

"I have heard that quite a bit. I'm a big admirer of Darce. People get me mixed up for him and Roughy all the time. Roughy says his kids are going to look like me and I don't think they're too happy with that," he laughs. 

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Murphy and his manager, James Pitcher from Bravo Management, finalised a two-year contract extension with Collingwood's head of football, Graham Wright, late last month, only months after the Victorian was concerned his pre-season injury setback might cost him his future at the AIA Centre. 

"Even before that it plays on your mind massively. You go into pre-season and think where the hell am I going to get into this team? Pre-season I came back and got COVID, then I broke my ribs so I missed the whole pre-season and then came back and started to get some confidence and I was still on the outer a bit, but not too far off," he said.

"I got a lot of confidence in the JLT game before that (ankle injury) happened. It does play on your mind 100 per cent. Outside of football I've got a great support base and I'm busy – I'm someone who needs to be busy – I knew that whatever was going to happen I couldn't control. 

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More carnage with Pie defender helped off

Collingwood has suffered yet another concerning injury with high-flying defender Nathan Murphy hurting his leg in this awkward landing

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"It's worked out perfectly, but there is still a long way to go for me most out of it. This is the club I want to be a part of and I don't want to lose that lifestyle, so I'm very grateful it's all been sorted."

Murphy became interested in coffee in his first year out of school, completed a barista course and worked at Collingwood institution Proud Mary, where he learned how to roast coffee beans, long before the idea of owning a café became a reality.

Now he is balancing a life inside the Magpies' back six with juggling shifts at the café, ensuring the new business makes a fast start. 

"I've always been a coffee snob and Checkers, Cal and I developed a relationship off it but they've still got no clue how to make coffee, I've still got that up on them," he said. 

"Checkers is not allowed anywhere where there is communication with customers because he is terrible with customers. Cal works an hour and then gets bored. Roughie and I are the hard workers."

Life is busy for Murphy, but he is proving to be calm amid the chaos.