As the inaugural First Nations person to play a senior VFL/AFL game for Collingwood, it fills Wally Lovett’s heart with joy to see the likes of Bobby Hill running around in 2024.

Hill became the 19th Indigenous player to pull on the black and white last year – 41 years after Lovett became the first.


While Lovett emphasises 19 is not enough, the now 62-year-old said it takes him back to his playing days when he watched the Club’s Indigenous players run out there now ahead of this year’s Sir Doug Nicholls Round.

“It’s still not enough as far as I’m concerned but it’s great to see them all have a good crack at it and it’s going to be good to watch these ones keep having a crack at it,” he said.

“The ones who haven’t played a senior game yet too, it’s exciting for them.

“I feel a bit younger, but then when I see some of the stuff they do, it makes me feel older.

“It’s really exciting watching the boys and it helps when the team is going really well so it helps them come out of their shell.”

That last point is what is so important to Lovett.

The 15-game Pie says the presence of Indigenous players at AFL level transcends football, helping their family members and those in the community gain confidence – something he’s seen grow since he first stepped onto the field.


“That’s the trouble with a lot of First Nations people is we always stood back a bit, but football has really made people stand up and express themselves more,” he said.

“The way blokes can speak in front of the camera now is amazing, they’re really good and that helps other people and families around the country too, it brings them out of their shell and makes them really proud of what their cousins are doing for example.

“Every family member and every First Nations person stands up and looks at these lads and they all dream.

“Not everyone can make it, but these guys encourage them so that they can have a go at it and trying to strive to be better than someone else waiting back to get them to do it.”

For Lovett during his formative years, it was some of the seminal First Nations players in the league who allowed him to believe he could do so too.

Growing up as a Carlton supporter, Syd Jackson was someone he always looked up to.

When he later became the first Indigenous player to don the black and white for his childhood club’s biggest rival, it was something he didn’t fully grasp at the time.

“Polly Farmer and Syd Jackson were who I looked up to, and Sir Doug Nicholls is our  bloodline, so they were the main ones when I was growing up,” he said.

“I actually barracked for Carlton back then, so Syd Jackson was one we were pretty proud of and wanted to get to the heights that he did.

“It’s been really special to me, I’m very proud of being the first, but at the time I didn’t realise it.

“With the Indigenous Round and the Dreamtime game people ask me ‘are you really the first?’ and they can’t believe it took so long for a First Nations person to get a senior game at Collingwood.

“We’d had others play in the reserves and Under 19s, but to play an actual senior game was amazing.”


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Lovett’s story of getting to the Club ties in with Collingwood’s link to south-west Victoria that has heightened over the past few years.

A Gunditjmara man hailing from Heywood in the state’s south-west, Lovett had only ever played in the local Western Border league that spans across the South Australian border when he was picked up by the Pies.

That only came about through the recommendation of one of his mates, causing Lovett to take his training more seriously than he ever had before.

“One of my mates who was down here already, Darren Edwards, he threw my name up and I got a letter on the first of December, 1981,” he said.

“I had to get a bit fitter so I had a lot of help from at the time a Senior Constable called Ian McInnes from Heywood at the time.

“He used to get up in the morning and train with me, so I trained morning and night to try and get near the level of fitness to have a go in the seniors.”

It worked, with Lovett waltzing in for his debut in Round Two of the 1982 season and retaining his place for the majority there in – no mean feat given the Club had played off in the past three Grand Finals.

1982 would be forward’s only season in the black and white however as he moved across town to play for Richmond in the following two years, but his connection to the Club has always remained.

That has been strengthened through his hometown and Deadly Choices partnering with the Club which has integrated Heywood even further, with Lovett appreciating what it has done for his community.”

“It’s got them standing pretty tall in Heywood when the premiership cup came into town last year,” he said.

“It’s been pretty exciting for all of the family and Leon’s (Davis) part of our mob now with a young fella with one of the girls from our family so it’s good.”