Andy Lovell (clockwise, from left) at Melbourne in 1994, coaching Gold Coast in 2018, at West Coast in 2000 and coaching the Indigenous All-Stars in 2015. Pictures: AFL Photos,

ANDY Lovell wanted to be a Demon forever.

Then Mick Malthouse picked up the phone and changed the course of Lovell's football career – and the next thirty years of his life.

Lovell was on a post-season trip in Bali with his Melbourne teammates when hotel reception said he had a missed call.

It was 1995 – in the pre-mobile phone era, for our younger readers – and the man who had reached out to the 25-year-old was West Coast coach Malthouse, just 12 months after he'd won his second premiership with the Eagles.

"I had a message to ring Mick Malthouse, so I rang him thinking it's a bit weird," Lovell told

"He said: 'mate, we're really, really keen for you to come and play with us'.

"I said: 'Mick, I'm really flattered and honoured, but I want to be a one-club player, I love Melbourne and all my mates are there'.

"He said he totally respected it, and we hung up.

"Next day I had a message to ring Trevor Nisbett (then-West Coast football manager), so I rang 'Nizzy' and he said the same thing.

"Then he said: 'this is awkward, but Melbourne have already agreed to trade you for Craig Turley'.

"It was so random. Mick Malthouse was an icon, and the Eagles were huge. On the spot, I had these two blokes chasing me down in Bali and it convinced me."

Mick Malthouse addresses his West Coast players during a game in 1996. Picture: AFL Photos

After eight seasons and 121 games for Melbourne, Lovell was off to the other side of the country.

It was a pivotal moment for the tough-as-nails midfielder. A moment that would not only see him play three more years for the biggest club in the country at the time, but by extension, open a pathway to coaching and extend his time in the country's elite competition by another two decades.

Lovell's football story has taken him from Tasmania to Melbourne to Perth to the Gold Coast and from playing in a Grand Final to coaching alongside Malthouse, Ross Lyon, Mark Thompson, and others, in a remarkable journey.

Growing up

The son of Greg and Julie, Lovell was born in Hobart in 1970.

Greg was a champion woodchopper, winning 17 world, 45 Australian and 210 Tasmanian titles. He was great mates with the man that would eventually become the greatest ever in that field, Dave Foster.

David Foster and Greg Lovell in the c.1970s. Picture: Facebook / Northern Tasmanian Axemen Association

He also played country footy "at a modest level" and was right there when 'Chopper', the nickname his son would soon acquire, discovered his love of the game at age six.

Lovell was a diehard Hawthorn supporter, the blond locks and the high-flying marks of Peter Knights catching his attention.

"I just remember never ever having a footy out of my hands, ever," he said.

"When mum would call me in for dinner and it was dark, I'd roll up a pair of socks into a ball and I'd kick a pair of socks in the hallway.

"I was just obsessed with footy.

"I'd play (on Saturdays) at eight o'clock in the morning and it'd be freezing cold in Hobart, and you'd kick the ice off the ground. I remember kids crying, their hands were that cold.

"You'd kick the footy around for another hour or two, go home, then dad would take me to the TFL to watch Glenorchy.

"I'd just kick the footy all day and come home just in time to watch 'The Winners'. It was all I ever knew. It was all I wanted to do."

Learning about being Indigenous

A major part of Lovell's upbringing, and still to this day, was learning about his First Nations heritage.

His paternal grandmother was Indigenous, living south of Hobart in Huonville. His uncle Gary was selected in an Indigenous All-Stars Australian football team that played in Darwin in the early 1980s.

His father is part of the Aboriginal and Islander Sports Hall of Fame.

Although the focus on First Nations people wasn't the same when he grew up as it is now, Lovell said his family had always celebrated their culture.

He's still learning today. Following his grandmother's passing seven years ago, his aunty Pam undertook a family history search.

"All through my AFL career, I always connected with the other (Indigenous) boys. There wasn't a spotlight shone on it. You just got on with it.

"I've become really, really curious … you're learning all the time around culture."


With his family records only tracing back to 1893, Lovell said there were still questions he'd like answered, and doesn't truly know where his mob originated.

As part of the Stolen Generation, his great-great-grandmother was shipped from Brisbane to Hobart that year as a 13-year-old.

She died four years later, giving birth to Lovell's great-grandmother, who would later give birth to his grandmother.

Lovell said his grandmother felt "shame" and an "unwillingness to talk" about the family's earlier history.

"She was a proud Aboriginal woman, but just didn't want to re-live it. I totally understand that.

"Because my grandmother never talked about her history, we just assumed we were Tasmanian Aboriginal, we didn't know any different.

"All the records are non-existent before she (great-great-grandmother) was put on the boat. We don't know where in Queensland she was from, so we're still searching."

Andy Lovell addresses the Indigenous All-Stars team in 2015. Picture: AFL Photos

Lovell said he felt in "no man's land" not knowing his family's history.

"Because you don't know anything about your Aboriginal history or culture, so you're not a blackfulla, and white fellas say you've got Aboriginal heritage, so you get caught in the middle a little bit," he said.

"As much as I want to celebrate my Aboriginality, I've got no doubt some people would look and go 'he's just trying to cash in'.

'You become conscious that you're not judged to be jumping on a bandwagon.

"If you talk to all the mates I grew up with … they'll tell you I was always known as Aboriginal. We haven't hidden it or been ashamed."

Journey to the VFL

Almost ahead of his time, Lovell was scouted by Richmond at the ripe old age of 12.

Recruiter Harry Jenkins visited the family home, watched Lovell play a few games and then flew he and fellow Tasmanian Rich Hanlon (who still works for AFL Cape York House) to the MCG to watch the Tigers play. "It blew my mind," Lovell said.

A year later, Hawthorn entered the picture.

Lovell was best mates with fellow Tasmanian Paul Hudson, while their fathers got on famously as well. Through legendary goalkicker Peter's connection the Hawks were suddenly interested and flew both teenagers to five consecutive Grand Finals between 1983-87.

In the meantime, Lovell's career was developing nicely. He debuted for Glenorchy as a 15-year-old and won a premiership the following year.

That 1986 triumph coincided with the first ever national draft. The Hawks were keen. Would they get him? Or would the 16-year-old end up somewhere else?

"I went to school that day, came home and a mate's dad rang me and said: 'you know you've been drafted by the Melbourne footy club?'

"I had no idea. The irony was I'd never spoken to anyone from the Melbourne footy club, ever."

Andy Lovell in action for Melbourne in 1994. Picture:

But with the Hawks taking West Adelaide's Clayton Lamb (No.13), future three-time premiership star Darrin Pritchard (No.26) and Lovell's Glenorchy teammate Matthew Queen (No.39), our man slipped to No.42.

Although on Melbourne's books, Lovell decided to spend 1987 in Tasmania, flying over in preliminary final week to train with the Demons before sitting in the MCG stands to watch Gary Buckenara, playing for the team Lovell had supported from childhood, break Demon hearts with his after-the-siren goal.

Months later he would make the move to the mainland to start a career in the VFL, but not before a heart-to-heart with his "best mate" the night before he left.

Greg asked his son if he was ready for the big move.

"I said: 'I don't want to go, Dad, I'm scared'.

"He said, 'don't be stupid, mate. You get on that plane and give it your best crack and if it doesn't work, we'll always be here'.

"That's all I needed."

Lovell completed Year 12 at Melbourne High while playing 22 games for John Northey's team that stormed into a Grand Final.

But before Lovell lined up on John Platten in the decider against his (formerly) beloved Hawks, he had something else to do earlier in the week.

"I played in a Melbourne High Herald Shield game on the Monday, then played in the Grand Final five days later," he laughed.

"And we only lost by 96 points."

Melbourne players during the national anthem ahead of the 1988 VFL Grand Final against Hawthorn. Picture: AFL Photos

It wasn't always smooth sailing at the Demons, particularly early on.

Following an almost-perfect 1988 debut season, Lovell worked himself to the bone the following off-season and contracted glandular fever.

The next three seasons he played a total of 18 games as repeated quad injuries, a broken foot and bad ankle problems restricted any continuity.

There was a silver lining at the end of that stretch though – a four-goal performance against Essendon in an elimination final win at Waverley Park that got Lovell's confidence back and had him believing he belonged at the highest level.

He was runner-up in Melbourne's best and fairest in 1992 and never out of the senior team again – until the calls from Malthouse and Nisbett.

Andy Lovell takes a mark during Melbourne's win over Carlton in the 1994 third qualifying final. Picture: Getty Images

Off to West Coast

Although Lovell got his head around moving to a third state in his life, it wasn't easy.

Aside from teammates, he never heard from anyone in Melbourne's hierarchy until well over a decade later when the coach at the time, Neil Balme, "had a lunch and a laugh" with him to reflect.

He didn't know a soul in Western Australia, but through some management connections, got to know Chris Mainwaring before reporting to Eagles training.

The pair got on famously and were "closest of mates" until Mainwaring's death.

Chris Mainwaring in action for West Coast in the 1990s. Picture: AFL Photos

Lovell's career continued until the saddest moment of his life, the death of his father in a workplace accident in 1997.

"I'd lost my best mate and my mentor and my hero," he recalled.

"The footy club wrapped their arms around me. Trevor Nisbett and Brian Cook (CEO), I couldn't talk more highly of what they did for me and my family. Unbelievable."

Lovell returned to Tasmania for the funeral and met his Eagles teammates at Princes Park to play North Melbourne a few days later.

He was there physically, but not emotionally.

"I'd lost my desire to play. I didn't want to play footy any more. I'd lost my mojo massively. My career basically petered out after that."

Becoming a coach

Never really interested in coaching, Lovell was introduced to the trade by Malthouse during his final season in 1998.

At first Lovell worked with a few of the young Eagles and did well enough to entice Malthouse to put him on staff in 1999.

"It gave you a level of satisfaction I'd never experienced," he said.

"You're really self-absorbed as an elite athlete. All you worry about is how you can get a game or are you playing well?

"I got to teach young blokes and thought: 'this is really good'.

"The opportunity to work under Mick Malthouse was enormous. I was only 28, I'd had 11 years (playing), but I was cooked mentally and my father's death affected me massively.

"My whole outlook on life changed. My family was the most important thing, not footy."

Andy Lovell as an assistant coach on West Coast's staff in 2000. Picture: AFL Photos

Lovell coached East Perth in the WAFL in 2003 and 2004, got a job as an assistant to Mark Thompson at Geelong in 2005-2006, took a 'gap year' of sorts as the CEO of Barwon Sports Academy in Geelong in 2007 and was then a development coach at Melbourne under Dean Bailey in 2008, when he also coached the club's VFL affiliate Sandringham.

That's where another fork in the road came.

The Zebras changed their alliance from the Demons to St Kilda at the end of that season and Lovell, one year into a three-year contract, had the option of staying with Melbourne in a development role or moving to the Saints. He took the latter, with an opportunity to learn from Ross Lyon.

"Ross was a hard taskmaster, but had an amazing ability to analyse statistical data within games and connect the dots.

"He could turn that data into tangible footy acts – how you apply it to your gameplan. He was a master at it.

"He was the first coach I saw influence games from the coaches' box.

"To convince your players to play their role, it's the most important thing. You're inevitably dealing with some level of ego with every player, and it varies, so to get our players to buy into your philosophy and adapt to your system, Ross is as good as any that I've ever seen in that.

"'Bomber' was fundamentally different. His ability to take a young, raw, talented player and turn him into a bona fide AFL man, there was none better than him."

Andy Lovell speaks to his Sandringham VFL players in 2010. Picture: Getty Images

At the end of 2010, another opportunity came – to join the start-up Suns on the Gold Coast underneath inaugural coach and former teammate Guy McKenna and alongside Ken Hinkley, who he'd worked with at the Cats.

"It's easy to look back and grasp what the problems were," he said.

"First-time CEO, first-time chairman, first-time footy ops manager and first-time senior coach. There's that layer.

"The lack of resources around your home base – your gym. There was that element as well."

Lovell said having such a vast majority of teenage bodies that they struggled to develop physically was also a hurdle.

But he wouldn't change a thing.

He worked under McKenna, Rodney Eade and one season of Stuart Dew before being moved on at the end of 2018. After three decades in the VFL/AFL system, Lovell was out.

Andy Lovell speaks to Gold Coast players against Geelong in round 11, 2018. Picture: AFL Photos

"Because it's been your entire life, you think you're a one-trick pony and are scared of what's next," he said.

"You just hang on for dear life. While you enjoy it while you're in there, you're scared of being on the outside because it's all you've ever known.

"I had an applied science degree in phys ed, but I'd never used it, so it was almost useless to me. I was starting from scratch."

Life after the AFL

Lovell got what he described as a "transition" role from clubland as a regional manager of footy operations with AFLQ on the Gold Coast.

After being stood down during the COVID-19 pandemic, he began looking elsewhere and wound up with the Clontarf Foundation, which helps young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island men improve their education, discipline, life skills, self-esteem.

It was a critical juncture in Lovell's life, one he "absolutely loved" at a time when he was delving further into his own family's history.

Then, just when he thought footy was right out of his system, Bond University created a full-time director role in its Australian football program.

Andy Lovell in his new role as Bond University's director of football. Picture: Bond University

"It's the best decision I've ever made," Lovell said of taking up the Bond University position.

"Now I'm coaching women and heavily involved in the women's program.

"It's given me a whole new lease on footy life. It's so refreshing, and the girls are so committed and so intent on learning and getting better."

So, Andy 'Chopper' Lovell – who started as a little boy in Hobart kicking rolled-up socks down a hallway, before travelling across the country and working alongside some of footy's greatest minds – is now a football expert in his own right. And he's refreshed, rejuvenated, and hoping to educate and inspire the next generation with the benefit of living all the highs and lows, both in footy and in life.