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Indigenous footy’s come a long way: Andy Lovell

There hasn’t been an Indigenous AFL coach since Barry Cable in 1984, but if there were a betting market offering punters the chance to pick the next one, Andy Lovell would likely be a market leader.

“Outside of myself and Roger Hayden, who’s a development coach at Freo, I don’t think there’ve even been any Indigenous coaches in the AFL system recently,” Lovell told this week.

“Why that’s the case? I’m not sure.”

“I don’t think you wake up one day and go, ‘you know what? I’m ready” – Andy Lovell on the prospect of being a senior coach

Asked whether he’s got his eye on a senior coaching role, the former rover who played 164 games for Melbourne and West Coast – and now works as an assistant coach at Gold Coast – says it’s not something he’s actively pursuing.

“Of course it’s something I’d love to do if given the opportunity, there’s no doubt about that.

“You daydream at times and see yourself in the role, if the opportunity ever came up. I’m not seeking it though. If it happens, it happens.”

For the moment, Lovell’s focus is on playing his part in the Suns’ coaching line-up, and ensuring he continues to learn and develop.

“I don’t think you wake up one day and go, ‘you know what? I’m ready [to be a senior coach]’. For me, it’s about experiences – everyday experiences. The longer you spend in the game, experiencing different scenarios and situations, the better prepared you are.

“It’s obviously great working with ‘Rocket’ Eade, who’s got an enormous amount of experience. I’m learning a hell of a lot off him.”

Lovett also learned a lot coaching the Indigenous All-Stars in their exhibition match against West Coast prior to the 2015 AFL season. Those learnings extended beyond the footy field.

“Every time you coach a game of footy, you learn. But the real learning for me came from the fact that it was the first time I’d actually been at an Indigenous Camp.

“For me, it was a great chance to see the level of commitment the boys had to their Indigenous backgrounds. A lot of them vary, from where they came from, but their commitment to each other – throughout the entire week – was a real eye-opener for me.

“Their desire to affect some really positive change for Indigenous players in the competition – that was a real highlight for me. I learned a lot from the week.”

The coaching experience itself was fairly unique. Lovell was given just a handful of days to educate the All-Stars about how they were going to play together.

In between training and Lovell teaching the game-plan, the more senior figures in the playing group taught others about Indigenous culture and the demands of an AFL career.

“To see so many people at the game, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, rubbing shoulders and watching a great game of footy – that’s what it’s all about.” – Andy Lovell

“I got an opportunity to meet some outstanding people: Shaun Burgoyne – who I hadn’t really had much to do with, and who captained the team – and Adam Goodes, who obviously didn’t play but was a really strong influence throughout the entire week that we had over in Perth,” Lovell reflected.

“Those guys in particular were just outstanding in their leadership amongst the whole group.”

Throughout the entire week of Indigenous Camp, culture and footy were intertwined. Even Lovell’s pre-match address to his players focused on life beyond the football field.

It addressed “how far we’ve come as a nation, and how far we’ve come in AFL, to the point today where the Indigenous games are a real celebration,” Lovell reflected.

“It was really important for our players to recognise that, and see how powerful they can be in having an influence on Indigenous and non-Indigenous kids out there in the community.”

Asked which memory of the week in charge of the All-Stars was most vivid, Lovell thought back to the crowd of more than 10,000 that came out to watch the All Stars take on West Coast.

“To see so many people at the game, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, rubbing shoulders and watching a great game of footy – that’s what it’s all about.

“The ability football has to draw people together, irrespective of race, religion, all that sort of stuff… It’s so powerful that the game can allow different people to come together.”

Click here to see more video from Indigenous Camp, featuring Chad Wingard, Shaun Burgoyne and Adam Goodes