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The shock trooper


AFL life after 30 is looking good for Nathan Lovett-Murray, even if he continues to get more attention for his life off the football field.

"I’ve seen players come and go who were 10 times more talented and skilful than I am but they just didn’t get it right off-field."

"I’ve seen players come and go who were 10 times more talented and skilful than I am but they just didn’t get it right off-field." Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

ESSENDON veteran Nathan Lovett-Murray has long been one of indigenous football's most prominent identities, one whose knowledge has been sought again this week in meetings with the AFL about a stalling of participation rates at AFL level.

Indeed, his connection with both indigenous issues and the AFL goes back to well before his playing days, all the way to 1993, when the then 10-year-old was part of the half-time entertainment on grand final day.

"I was involved in the dance at half-time," he recalls of the MCG show marking the Year of the World's Indigenous Peoples.

"They had all the Victorian indigenous kids involved and I remember coming down to the MCG, the rehearsals, then running out onto the ground. I had to carry part of the flag.

"It was a pretty proud moment for indigenous people, those celebrations, Michael Long winning the Norm Smith Medal, Gavin Wanganeen having won the Brownlow."
The kid from Heywood in the Western District wasn't that fussed about Essendon's eventual 44-point victory over Carlton, though. He was a North Melbourne supporter.

"Wayne Carey was my idol growing up in the country," he says. "I had his posters up on my wall and all that, and North and Essendon had that big rivalry, so I wasn't really a big fan of Essendon."

Funny how things change, he's thinking as he smiles at the memory. "I love this club now. I'm really proud to be part of such a wonderful club."

And now, after another swag of retirements and delistings, he is its equal fifth-longest-serving player of the current list, behind only the ageless Dustin Fletcher, skipper Jobe Watson, Jason Winderlich and David Hille in terms of longevity.

Next season will be Lovett-Murray's 10th with the Bombers, after  signing a new one-year contract just a couple of weeks after his 30th birthday.

His AFL career has been a series of battles.

First, simply to make it. He was overlooked in several drafts until he was finally picked up as a 21-year-old rookie in 2004.

Then, with some trouble curbing his aggressive instincts on the field. Often, there has been trouble with soft-tissue injuries as well.

But as he approaches what should be the twilight of his league career, Lovett-Murray's spot at Windy Hill is perhaps as secure as it has ever been.

He has overcome those problems harnessing his competitive nature. The injuries have, for now at least, been put to one side.

Lovett-Murray last year managed more games than he had for four seasons, in a year  when most of his teammates were going down like flies under the weight of the soft-tissue curse.

And after a career spent plugging gaps left, right and centre, he has now found a real niche in the Essendon line-up as coach James Hird's shock-trooper, coming off the substitute's bench, filling the role more often than any other Bomber in 2012 and often with great effect.

"It was a long journey getting here," he reflects. "I was drafted late and I played three years in the VFL before that, so to end up being here for 10 years, I'm amazed, really, I honestly didn't think it was going to happen.

"I remember playing with Sean Wellman, Joe Misiti and Mark Mercuri, big names at Essendon, and they were all coming up to retirement and I remember ‘Sheeds' always saying in meetings to make the most of your career because it could be over like that, and that's something that has always stuck in my mind.

"It's been 10 years now and I'm pretty proud of it."

The game threatens to pass many players by as they head towards their 30s. But there's a fair argument that the recent rule changes regarding the interchange bench have helped the game come closer to Lovett-Murray.

While some clubs are still experimenting with their substitutes in a bid to find the right formula, Essendon has found its man.

"It was something me and Hirdy spoke about at the start of the season," he says. "He said that, because I had the flexibility of being able to play different roles, I was going to be used as the sub more than most players. But it's also to help me. I've had a lot of soft-tissue injuries and he thought it would help keep my career going.

"I reckon it proved a smart move. I can help the team and it's going to help me to be here for a bit longer."

Lovett-Murray's hardness at the contest helped swing several games when the Dons were in midfield trouble. His burst ability in the pivot is the result of hard work on his fitness levels and at winning the contested ball.

"When I came here, I was a half-forward or half-back but I always wanted to get into the midfield and I just had to get my fitness up to the right level," he said.

"But it's also being smarter about it. I can't always train at 100per cent all the time because I'll just break down, so that's helped."

So has a more mature approach to his attack on the ball and opponent, which until a few years ago resulted in him too often giving away silly free kicks - which cost his team - and in  tribunal trouble. A tangle with Fremantle's Matthew Carr in 2006, which cost him a four-game penalty pleaded down to three, is still firmly in the memory banks.

"Players still get into me about that," he smiles. "I was just trying to stick up for my teammates. We had a young guy, Andrew Lee, playing only his second game and Matthew and Josh Carr were both getting into him, so I just ran over there to push them off and they both jumped on me.

"I'd been doing a lot of boxing training at that time and I sort of let one go. I didn't mean to hit him, I was more trying to jumper punch him but I sort of let go of the jumper and threw one and it ended up getting him flush on the chin.

"I look back now and see that was pretty undisciplined. If you want to try to be a role model for younger players, you can't afford to do things like that.

"I think I'm more now just about attacking the ball. That's where I've had to work on my game, with contested ball. I've really had to improve that.

"Now I feel like I can go in and attack the ball and still protect myself. In the early days, I was a lot skinnier and I've worked really hard in the gym and got myself a bigger body so I can do that better."

That's the football part of the Lovett-Murray story. The rest, such as mentoring  a score of indigenous players, welfare work and setting up a record label and promoting a hip-hop band, has earned him far more attention. But that's fine with him.

"I suppose it's a good story," he says. "I think a lot of people are interested in that but I think it's really helped my football as well and that's partly why I've been able to have a 10-year career.

"I've seen players come and go who were 10 times more talented and skilful than I am but they just didn't get it right off-field. It's really important that you're doing something outside football."

This year was particularly busy on that score. Lovett-Murray's label, Payback Records, released indigenous hip-hop band Yung Warriors' latest album. There were a couple of national tours and some decent airplay on Triple J. He learnt plenty. But now it's time to move on to something else.

"I'm keen to pursue the next stage of my life," he says. "I'm really keen to get into sports management, so I'm looking at managing and mentoring indigenous athletes, but I also want to be more involved with the footy club, with the indigenous programs they run here and some welfare stuff they do here at the club."

Lovett-Murray already has plenty of welfare stuff  on his plate in an on-field sense, being the obvious go-to man for the likes of Paddy Ryder, Courtenay Dempsey and Leroy Jetta.

"When I first came here, Dean Rioli was like a big brother to me," he says. "He was able to show me the ropes and I know when he first came to the club, he had someone like Michael Long, so it's a role I like playing.

"Hopefully, when we get some more indigenous players here, that can then be a role that Paddy and Courtenay and Leroy can step up and play."

The importance of what the now 10-year veteran has to offer beyond his football has never been lost on Essendon.

But coming into a new season injury-free, with a defined role to play and with a freshly inked contract that both parties were eager to sign, the Bombers are also quietly confident Lovett-Murray can offer more than ever on the ground, too.

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AFL 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78 vs RIC 105 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115 vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72 vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74 vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97 vs WCE 87 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78 vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140 vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75 vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123 vs GEE 61 Stats
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Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131 vs CAR 62 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66 vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101 vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63 vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76 vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44 vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60 vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78 vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133 vs BRI 51 Stats
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Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140 vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84 vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80 vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111 vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105 vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58 vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127 vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105 vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81 vs FRE 111 Stats
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Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51 vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81 vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49 vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119 vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99 vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74 vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65 vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67 vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125 vs ADE 68 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45 vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76 vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73 vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118 vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70 vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120 vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50 vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80 vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91 vs PTA 115 Stats
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Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59 vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109 vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87 vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108 vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78 vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50 vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80 vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75 vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68 vs WCE 78 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82 vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119 vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155 vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57 vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120 vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135 vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88 vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105 vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102 vs PTA 65 Report Stats
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Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140 vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78 vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108 vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63 vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69 vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115 vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136 vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103 vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43 vs RIC 76 Report Stats
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Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 19:50SCG
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 13:45AS
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
WBU vs GWS 16:35ES
RIC vs ESS 19:20MCG
ADE vs FRE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs STK 13:10G
COL vs NTH 15:20MCG
WCE vs GEE 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:40MCG
GCF vs SYD 16:35MS
ESS vs GEE 19:20ES
PTA vs WBU 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS vs BRI 13:10Spotless Stadium
NTH vs WCE 15:20BA
STK vs HAW 16:40ES
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
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Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF vs FRE 13:40MS
WCE vs ESS 16:35Domain Stadium
NTH vs SYD 19:20ES
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs GWS 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 16:40ES
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Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs WCE 19:50MCG
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:40MCG
GWS vs NTH 16:35Spotless Stadium
WBU vs BRI 19:20ES
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE vs MEL 15:20SS
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Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs COL 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs RIC 19:50SCG
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ESS 13:40MCG
BRI vs ADE 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:20ES
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GCF 15:20ES
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Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 19:20SCG
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs CAR 19:20ES
MEL vs WCE 19:40TIO
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs STK 13:10ES
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE vs BRI 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs CAR 19:50MCG
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
WBU vs GCF 16:35CAZ
NTH vs GEE 19:20ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs STK 13:10Spotless Stadium
HAW vs FRE 15:20AS
BRI vs SYD 16:40G
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Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH vs ESS 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 13:45SS
GCF vs GWS 14:10MS
COL vs WCE 16:35ES
SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
FRE vs CAR 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
STK vs RIC 16:40ES
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Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:45SO
ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
BRI vs NTH 19:20G
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 13:10ES
MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs BRI 13:45SS
COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA vs STK 13:10Adelaide Oval
ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL vs NTH 13:10MCG
GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs FRE 16:40ES
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Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
NTH vs STK 14:10BA
PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
BRI vs CAR 19:20G
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GCF 13:10MCG
WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
STK vs GEE 19:20ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS vs CAR 13:45Spotless Stadium
HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs WCE 13:10Adelaide Oval
STK vs SYD 15:20ES
FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
BRI vs WBU 00:00G
PTA vs FRE 00:30Adelaide Oval
WCE vs STK 02:00Domain Stadium
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AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 8 8 0 0 155.29 32
West Coast Eagles 8 6 2 0 158.17 24
Sydney Swans 8 6 2 0 127.36 24
GWS Giants 8 6 2 0 118.87 24
Collingwood 8 5 3 0 129.90 20
Adelaide Crows 8 5 3 0 116.32 20
Hawthorn 8 4 4 0 145.81 16
Richmond 8 4 4 0 107.64 16
View all
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