'Elegance and determination': Fiona Murray Pirilla - 1966-2023

Tributes will be paid to Fiona Murray Pirilla at this weekend’s NBL and WNBL Playoff Finals following her recent passing. 

The former England international and colossus of the British women’s game passed away aged 57 last month with her funeral this week attended by family, friends and numerous former team-mates and coaches. Murray Pirilla had been suffering from Myelo Dysplastic Syndrome (MDS). 

Born in Aldridge in the West Midlands, Murray made her name as a dominant centre with the all-conquering Avon Cosmetics Northampton of the 1980s, following a scholarship in the US. 

She also played for West Bromwich and Birmingham and in the West Midlands League after winning almost every honour in the game, including multiple English Player of the Year Awards and a gold medal with England at the Commonwealth Basketball Championships in 1991. 

Fiona also represented GB Students at World University Games in 1985 (Japan) and 1987 (Croatia). 

Sadie Mason, Basketball England board member and a former England teammate and friend of Fiona, said: “She was such a tough player and obviously tall, but she was characterised by her elegance and determination. 

“She was a fantastic team-mate too and showed great strength in dealing with her illness.” 

Simon Kirkland, a former CEO of Basketball England and one-time coach of Fiona, said on Facebook: “Very sad to see a lovely player and a stalwart in basketball pass away. Fiona Murray was three times England player of the year and a wonderful representative as a person for the country and clubs she paid for, in particular, West Bromwich, Northampton and Birmingham.” 

Basketball England sends condolences to Fiona’s family and friends and all who knew her. 

A minute’s applause to celebrate Fiona’s life and playing career will take place ahead of each of the women’s games at this weekend’s Playoff Finals at the National Basketball Performance Centre in Manchester. It will also act as a tribute to former Stockport Lapwings coach Jim Bennison who also passed away this month.