This is almost typical of a lazy Sunday afternoon at my house.
The wife’s watching TV, our 12-week old is sleeping (thankfully) and I’m at the computer obsessing and wondering about all the different permutations ahead of the footy season.
Nuffie behaviour it may be, yet I know this is relatable for many reading on the cusp of arguably our most anticipated season ever. The stakes are high and the club is determined to go back-to-back; not afraid to publicly declare their flag hopes.
After a quick look at the playing squad, I thought what are the major sub-plots coming into this year?
Which players are looking to make their mark or continue their strong form? Who is looking to surprise and who might find themselves on the outer?
And although it might seem quite obvious, almost too obvious, I couldn’t ignore it.
It had to be the Dees’ pick No. 9 from the 2015 draft, chosen one selection before Carlton’s prolific forward Harry McKay. In isolation that decision is frustrating, but broadly speaking it doesn’t bother me much, given recruiters Jason Taylor and Tim Lamb’s almost impeccable track record over the past decade.
Once upon a time, we cooked our draft picks. From Cale Morton to Lucas Cook, oh and we can’t forget Jordie Gysberts and Jimmy Toumpas either. The list goes on. Admittedly players came into an environment not set up correctly to nurture talent, which is why we should tread carefully at times with those who endured during the dark times. Nonetheless, we simply struggled to get it right for a long time.
In a full U-turn since 2011 we’ve nailed so many picks. The integration of Peter Jackson, Paul Roos and his successor Simon Goodwin greatly helping our cause. A completely new and reenergised environment where early first rounders could flourish, and players picked in the 30s, 40s and 50s stamped their authority – James Harmes, Alex Neal-Bullen, Bayley Fritsch, Charlie Spargo, Trent Rivers, Tom Sparrow and Harrison Petty to name but a few.
Agonisingly though, Sam Weideman is a miss right now and he’s running out of time.
“I’m rapt to be able to stay at the club and hopefully be a part of a successful future is huge for me.
“I love the place, I love the club and it’s a great place to be.”
After putting pen to paper on a two-year contract extension just days before the lead-up to the Grand Final last year, Weideman is hungry to prove the doubters wrong.
His grandfather, Murray, is a Collingwood legend, who captained the club to their 1958 premiership. Constantly linked with a move to the Pies, not many would have begrudged him of trying his luck at a different home.
After six seasons and 49 matches, including only five last campaign you could rationalise a trade. In fairness to Weideman his commitment to the club and to fight for a regular spot gives you a great sense of his mentality; he’s a fighter.
Without being a tactical mastermind or expert of the game, that leads me to an intriguing observation. A player so dominant at VFL level, yet has never been able to transfer that to the senior team. The gap in quality is considerable between the two divisions; all footy fans are aware of this. There’s been many examples across the AFL of those who can’t take the next step. Among them are delisted Demon Jay Kennedy-Harris and current fourth-year small forward Toby Bedford.
It does pose the question around something as simple as Weideman’s mental aptitude. What I’m talking about specifically is his ability to deal with pressure. Time and time again as supporters we have built up our collective hopes for Sam, all praying and hoping he’ll deliver on his immense talent, only to be let down by his inability to have a substantial and sustained impact on games.
The lack of continuity hasn’t helped, only averaging 8.1 games per season (which takes into account the 17-game covid interrupted 2020). But the stats do not lie. Only 9.2 touches per game, 3.5 marks and 1 goal to show for his efforts after six years in the system makes for grim reading.
Compare this with players of a similar stature and age and it tells a rather confronting tale. The story of a player who hasn’t grasped his opportunities when they’ve been presented to him.
It’s worth pointing out, Naughton played in defence during his first season and finished fourth in the Dogs’ Best & Fairest that season, while Allen is used as a swingman at times by Adam Simpson.
Heading into 2022 Weideman is already behind the eight ball, having played the final 10 or so minutes against North Melbourne and Carlton in Melbourne’s respective practice matches. And as a loyal listener of the podcast put it so aptly and cheekily the, ‘Meat and Three Veg’ combo of Tom McDonald and Ben Brown is in full swing, kicking on from playing a pivotal role in the premiership. Cracking into a key post in this well-oiled machine has never been tougher during Sam’s tenure with the club.
The success of his make or break season, outside of invariably fitness, could all hinge on one of Simon Goodwin’s great mantras about dealing with pressure. Make no mistake either, an opportunity will present itself, where the No. 26 lines up for an official AFL match at some point this year.
Weideman’s got all the tools, a much bigger frame now, can take pack marks and has an exquisite kicking technique. The ingredients are still there.
If the 24-year-old can take a leaf out of his coach’s book, who was under severe scrutiny heading into the 2021 season – and absorbed it beautifully – then Melbourne supporters might finally witness performances like the 2018 Elimination Final on a more regular basis.
There won’t be a lack of wanting from the toiling forward, nor will the faithful give up on backing their man.
This, his seventh season as a Melbourne Football Club player is a year where the ‘he’s still young’ claims should fall on deaf ears – there’s no more exceptions.
It’s over to you, Sam.