Meet the Refs: Don Lovett and Chris Brown

Recruit referee Chris Brown
Recruit referee Chris Brown
Image © Alan Frost  
Long-serving and highly-decorated referee Don Lovett
Long-serving and highly-decorated referee Don Lovett
Image © Alan Frost  

This month we meet two ALRA Victoria referees and find out that they are human after all!

Don Lovett is one of our most experienced and highly-decorated referees having officiated at numerous national and international tournaments whilst Chris Brown only entered the refereeing fraternity last year.  Let’s find out what makes them tick?


How did you originally become involved in lacrosse?

DL: In 1963 the Glenroy Lacrosse Club was in the process of being formed.  My next door neighbours had started training and their uncle asked my brother and I if we wanted to play lacrosse.  I was 11 years old.  It took 1½ seasons for the team to score our first goal; as a consequence we were on the end of many 30 goal losses.  My initial coaching came from members of the Coburg Lacrosse Club.  This is probably why as a 15 year old I spent a year as goal keeper in their “C Grade” team. 

At various times I played in every position on the field as a starter, this included warming the bench.

CB: Lacrosse was demonstrated at my local primary school (Caulfield North Central School). It caught the attention of my older brother Mark who decided to give it a go. He ventured to Caulfield Park one cold Saturday morning and I followed him two weeks later. All I remember was the foggy mornings and running around trying to keep warm. I was eight years old. It was fun though and I wanted to go back the next week.

They said I might be able to play in the midgets. That sounded exciting. Midgets led to U12s, Dad drove us around and Peter Weatherill and Bill Stewart taught us how to throw. I remember eating fish and chips and watching someone called Smella look one way and pass the ball the other way. That also looked like fun. I saw Nick Skewes pass behind his shoulder. From then on I was hooked. I played for Caulfield for many years, and then played with Surrey Park, two great lacrosse clubs.


And what lead you into the realm of refereeing?

DL: In my early days as a player clubs were required to supply referees to officiate in other games when they had a “bye”.  The year before I joined ALRA I watched a few games and acted as club referee in a few games.  While I wanted to stay involved in the sport it was not a conscious decision to become a referee - it just happened.  I think the persistence of Gordon Elder also influenced my decision-making process.

CB: Graeme Fox asked if I could be the home referee for Surrey Park. I think this was so he did not have to be the home referee!!  He promised me a free drink after the match. Tim Murphy was coaching that day and trying to get the best out of his players. Spreadie had the ball, Blair wanted the ball and Wazza just wanted to shoot.

To my surprise I enjoyed my first match. I wasn’t yelled at. Grinner smiled and said I should come back next week. Later, Noel McDonald said I would have to pull my socks up if I was going to be a proper ref. Meanwhile Neville Balfour said I was a ref, not an umpire. Mike Slattery suggested I become an official ref, and come to the dark side so I did.


What have you found to be the main challenges in being a referee?

DL: Learning and improving my knowledge of the rules and the mechanics of refereeing so that I can get better at the process of refereeing together with maintaining my fitness levels so that I can keep up with the game and be in the correct position to make calls.

CB: Whenever I referee a game involving MCC, Ken Nichols tells me not to wreck a good match and Fran Nichols just shakes her head. I hope he means that a good referee is not to be noticed.  I think this is good advice, and my main challenge. Other challenges are trying not to catch the ball, and resisting Rob Pettit’s chocolate biscuits at half time.


And the rewards?

DL: During my 19 years as a referee I have refereed in many Victorian Grand Finals and National Championships, including Gold Medal games.  I have also refereed at 4 World Championships.   

During my 30 years as a player I played in 3 Grand Finals and 3 Junior State teams. 

CB: Rob Pettit’s chocolate biscuits at half time at MCC, and the opportunity to travel the world (Auckland, Amsterdam) and meet new people. Having a drink with players after the game and the personal satisfaction of doing a good job. With hard work there is the opportunity to represent your state and even your country.


What have been your greatest highlights as a referee?

DL: There have been many highlights, including refereeing my first State League grand final and selection as a referee for my first Senior Championship in 1994.  Selection as a referee for the 1999 Under 19 World Championships and again for the World Championships in 2002 & 2006 also rate fairly high.  However, my greatest highlight came during the 2010 World Championships when I was selected as Head Referee for the final between the USA and Canada.

CB: The European Lacrosse Championships in Amsterdam 2012. The standard of lacrosse was impressive. The new friendships, support and camaraderie that I have received since being an ALRA ref has exceeded my expectations.  Jason Lawrence and Don Lovett have been excellent mentors. The annual Torquay weekend at Sedgie’s is also not to be missed.


What might you say to someone who is thinking about becoming a referee?

DL: Most players are no longer competitive and finished by their mid-30s.  Also, the career opportunities for a player are limited.  Only 2 teams in each grade make the Grand Final and the large number of players in State League makes getting into a Senior State team extremely difficult.  Referees on the other hand can still be performing at a high standard into their 60’s.  Additionally, the chances of being appointed as a referee in a senior Grand Final are extremely high, due in part to the small number of ALRA referees available for selection. 

Opportunities also exist to officiate at various National Championships and Tournaments.  Exposure is also possible to International lacrosse via the ASPACs and the European Championships.  This exposure/experience can also lead to selection to officiate in the World Championships.  Australia provided 11 referees for the 2010 World Championships in Manchester, 5 of who came from Victoria.  For the 2014 World Championships it is anticipated that Australia will be requested to provide 14 referees. 

CB: Give it a go - you might just enjoy it. If you blow your whistle, blow it hard. At a face off, make sure the players are facing the right direction. Be calm, consistent and concentrate. Smile. Talk to the players.  Call ‘referee’s error’ every few matches. Know your rule book.


The Australian Referees Lacrosse Association (ALRA) is always looking for more people to join our ranks.  If you are interested in finding out more about ALRA contact our President, Kelvin Minerds, on 0417 370 229 or or talk to the next ALRA referee you have a drink with after the game!


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