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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 78vs RIC 105 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123vs GEE 61 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105vs COL 100 Stats
BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
NTH 75vs SYD 91 Report Report Stats
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 110vs PTA 106 Report Stats
GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 80vs COL 73 Report Stats
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 94vs PTA 84 Report Stats
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 78vs GWS 69 Report Stats
GCF 125vs NTH 70 Report Stats
WBU 64vs CAR 53 Report Stats
MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 52vs STK 162 Stats
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE 84vs BRI 48 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 84vs STK 49 Report Stats
HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU 104vs COL 86 Report Stats
MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 113vs BRI 57 Stats
COL 54vs MEL 91 Report Stats
SYD 117vs ADE 65 Report Stats
CAR 54vs NTH 118 Report Stats
GCF 83vs WCE 83 Report Stats
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA 112vs STK 49 Report Stats
ESS 40vs WBU 127 Report Stats
FRE 84vs GWS 63 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 88vs RIC 52 Report Stats
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 105vs CAR 87 Report Stats
WBU 128vs PTA 64 Report Stats
BRI 100vs GCF 114 Report Stats
GEE 95vs SYD 63 Report Stats
WCE 74vs HAW 88 Report Stats
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 92vs NTH 127 Report Stats
GWS 93vs ESS 61 Report Stats
STK 59vs FRE 96 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 87vs COL 76 Report Stats
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS 59vs ADE 171 Report Stats
NTH 120vs STK 83 Report Stats
PTA 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
GEE 85vs HAW 121 Report Stats
BRI 131vs CAR 67 Report Stats
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC 138vs GCF 55 Report Stats
WBU 153vs MEL 55 Report Stats
FRE 80vs WCE 104 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW 86vs PTA 108 Report Stats
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 56vs RIC 147 Report Stats
GWS 44vs SYD 133 Report Stats
GCF 97vs ESS 95 Report Stats
STK 97vs GEE 97 Report Stats
ADE 131vs BRI 44 Report Stats
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH 94vs FRE 83 Report Stats
CAR 78vs MEL 55 Report Stats
WCE 162vs WBU 85 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 62vs COL 110 Report Stats
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS 132vs CAR 51 Report Stats
HAW 134vs BRI 62 Report Stats
NTH 73vs WBU 96 Report Stats
ESS 47vs RIC 74 Report Stats
GCF 51vs PTA 88 Report Stats
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 126vs WCE 69 Report Stats
STK 38vs SYD 135 Report Stats
FRE 108vs MEL 54 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
RIC 108vs NTH 67 Report Stats
Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
GEE 119vs ADE 80 Report Stats
BRI 130vs WBU 122 Report Stats
PTA 122vs FRE 53 Report Stats
HAW 113vs CAR 56 Report Stats
SYD 127vs GCF 64 Report Stats
WCE 125vs STK 30 Report Stats
Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
MEL 103vs GWS 77 Report Stats
COL 92vs ESS 95 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Fri, 11 SepTimes shown AEST
WCE 96vs HAW 64 Report Stats
Sat, 12 SepTimes shown AEST
FRE 69vs SYD 60 Report Stats
WBU 102vs ADE 109 Report Stats
Sun, 13 SepTimes shown AEST
RIC 88vs NTH 105 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Fri, 18 SepTimes shown AEST
HAW 135vs ADE 61 Report Stats
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 51vs NTH 77 Report Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
FRE 67vs HAW 94 Report Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
WCE 80vs NTH 55 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 27
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
HAW 107vs WCE 61 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 22 17 5 0 118.73 68
West Coast Eagles 22 16 5 1 148.22 66
Hawthorn 22 16 6 0 158.40 64
Sydney Swans 22 16 6 0 127.12 64
Richmond 22 15 7 0 123.09 60
Western Bulldogs 22 14 8 0 115.12 56
Adelaide Crows 21 13 8 0 115.71 54
North Melbourne 22 13 9 0 106.45 52
View all

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