AFL Bloodlines: Weideman wants to forge his own legacy

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Football is entrenched in Sam Weideman’s blood. Arguably so it seemed long before he understood that he was always destined to play football.

For Sam, he is the third generation in a long line of one of Collingwood Football Club’s most famous families; the Weideman’s. Sam’s Grandfather Murray, was one of the most revered players of his era. A 1958 premiership captain who also played a staring role in the 1953 flag is one of the more coveted players to have ever pulled on the famous black and white jumper.

His son Mark followed in his father’s footsteps, and was a colourful character who came to the club with great promise. He played 20 of his 28 games in a strong Collingwood side in 1981. However he was left out of the Grand Final side that year, with injury over the following seasons ultimately cutting short a promising career which finished on 28 senior games, which brings us to Sam. At just 16 years old, Sam Weideman is a man mountain. Already 195 cm and 85 kg, he’s still got plenty of growing to do before he is draft eligible in 2015.

Weideman is an infectious character. His big smile, followed up by a warm hand shake and friendly demeanor meant that the chat post-game after the Eastern Ranges’ nail-biting win over the Northern Knights – in which Weideman starred, ensured that his up-in-your-face, bubbly-type persona on field, matched his charm off it.

Weideman’s transition onto the Eastern Ranges’ TAC Cup list has been a promising one. The big, lead up forward finds himself immersed at a club that has a knack for producing big key forwards, with the likes of Jonathan Patton and Tom Boyd both being products of the prodigious system in the last few years. His fellow star up forward, Christian Petracca, an AFL-AIS member who seems set to become a first round selection later in November has continued that trend and Weideman could be the fourth in as many years in 2015. But as a bottom-age player this season, it’s a year of development and opportunity for Weideman, with the chance to get a head start along side and against the best talent in the state. “It’s a really big development year for me personally. It’s been challenging to start off, but I feel I’m slowly getting into it each week.”

Weideman started the season off slowly. He didn’t star, but his efforts in the air and disposal at ground level provided positive signs that a breakout game was threatening. With Petracca the focal point up forward for the Eastern Ranges, pressure mounted on Weideman to step up to the plate, with the forward prodigy away on AIS commitments for two weeks. The challenge was put to Weideman, to which he responded. His final stats for the day read five goals, 11 disposals and six marks, of which four were contested. Although the Eastern Ranges couldn’t hold off the Calder Cannons, the breakout which was threatening became a reality.

It reaffirmed what TAC Cup fans, as well as the Eastern Ranges officials were all thinking. This kid is about to blow everyone away.

But coming into a must-win game for the reigning premiers with Petracca still away, Weideman again fronted up and kicked three majors while taking some mind-blowing contested marks and kicking important goals as momentum swung in the favour of the Ranges. The Knights’ paranoia was evident, because whenever Weideman went near the ball, panic stations set in due to his command on the footy. He was met by two or three Northern players, knowing instinctively that Weideman could put them to the sword if given the chance.

That is exactly what he did.

His third goal of the afternoon was the one that put the Ranges in front. After a 40-point deficit turned into just five points, it was fitting that it was Weideman who took on the responsibility and was the one to put them in front. And despite a close finish in which the Ranges recorded their first win of the year, Weideman was all praise for Petracca who had been a vital cog in his progression as a forward. “Hes’s got so much experience, and so much promise as a player and he’s really helping me develop into a player like him who’s always such a danger.” Weideman said. I aspire to be like him, and his work rate is just fantastic. He loves to really help me and teach me in aspects of being a forward, and with him out it’s given me the opportunity to step up and really present myself and show what I’ve got to put on the table, but in saying that, I can’t wait to have him back.”

Having influential people around the football club this season is something that extends beyond Petracca. Eastern Ranges are coached by former Essendon champion Darren Bewick, whilst former Melbourne head coach Mark Neeld holds a position as talent manager. “They have been a massive help for me, and they’ve had so much experience and know what it takes to get to the elite level, especially in terms of developing my strengths and working on my weaknesses and to really get the best out of myself.”

Strength in general, is something that Weideman has plenty of. He has a natural knack to body up well against his opponent, working him under the ball and taking clean contested marks. He protects the drop of the ball well and is shown signs that he can ruck when the ball is in deep in Eastern’s attacking half.

“I’m starting to develop my leading patterns, which I hope to make a real strength of mine, but I’d say my marking ability is one attribute I feel is my strongest.” Weideman said. “I like to really extend myself, and back my speed off the mark to beat my opponent to give myself the best opportunity to take important marks.”

But in terms of what his aims are this year, Weideman is much more realistic.

“My main aim on my game, is finding some consistency and trying to improve my game each week. The challenges are going to become harder, and I just want to try and step up to the plate and really present myself.”

It’s reflective of exactly how the year started for Weideman. Slowly each week, he has been chipping away and now he is started to see the rewards with a return of eight goals in the previous two games. His ability has always been there, but perhaps now we’re finally starting to see that he too understands exactly what he can produce.

Although Weideman has played predominately deep forward, already he understands where his improvement needs to come form if he’s to take the next step in his development.

“Definitely my endurance (is a weakness),” Weideman suggested. “I did every session during preseason and I tried to develop my tank as much as I can to get the best out of myself, so it’s something I really want to work on, so I can push further up the ground and give myself the best possibly chance in my top-age year. My defensive pressure as a forward is something I want to work on, too but I feel I can really work on that over the year and provide a really good contest and work really hard when I haven’t got the ball.”

It’s already a strong indication that Weideman understands that having a famous surname won’t be enough to get him onto an AFL list at the end of next year.

But one factor that hasn’t disrupted Weideman’s progress is external pressure and expectation that he’ll carry on the famous name at Collingwood one day. His grandfather Murray declared in the Herald Sun back in 2010 that, “Sam will definitely play for the Magpies one day so it’s important he sees what a Collingwood premiership looks and feels like.”

But although his father didn’t play enough games to see Sam carry on the tradition, he’s realistic in his approach that he has a lot of work to do before before any such career path presents itself.

“Granddad always gets a bit ahead of himself sometimes!” Weideman joked. “But he’s been really great to me and has always been super supportive during my junior career, and he’s always been there every chance he’s had to watch me play and give all the tips he has. He’s a wealth of knowledge, especially with what he’s been able to achieve. “

His father Mark has equally been as supportive, and has taken a hands-on approach with Sam as he enters his first of two years at the Eastern Ranges. “He’s been a tremendous support to me. He’s always helping me, always trying to make me a better footballer, and I feel I’m very fortunate.”

But coming from a generation of Collingwood stalwarts, one would assume that the same passion and love for the black and white would flow on to Sam. “I actually follow Richmond,” Weideman revealed.

After a long love affair for Matthew Richardson, Weideman jumped ship and has been a passionate supporter ever since. “I’m not to sure how it happened, really. I went to a lot of Richmond games as a kid, and although I followed Collingwood early on, I just loved watching ‘Richo’ and I guess that’s how it happened.  I love the Tiges.”

Perhaps what was more astounding, was that his father Mark didn’t try to sway his interests, which inadvertently was an early sign that despite his famous surname, his father was adamant he would be his own man. If the opportunity presented itself allowing Sam to carry on the surname at the club his family are considered a monarchy at, he couldn’t wipe the smile off his face at the fairytale should it one day follow through. “Grandad would be very proud.” Weideman said of the futuristic suggestion. “To have that sort of legacy at the club, it’d be very nice to be able to follow that up.”

While some 16 year-olds would get carried away with dreams of playing AFL, let alone following their father’s footsteps – Weideman is realistic in his approach with his feet firmly on the ground, and focus purely on the next game ahead.

“I just want to play some consistent footy at TAC Cup level ahead of my top-age year next season.” Weideman stressed. “I’m not looking too far ahead, but I want to develop myself towards what will hopefully be an exciting future.”

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