By Tyler Lewis
Cody Weightman is built to lead the way on the big stage.
Whether it is 100,000 fans filling the stands of the MCG, his classmates cheering from the grass at Haileybury, with the Dandenong Stingrays at Shepley Oval, or his childhood friends at Holm Park in Beaconsfield, they are all the same to him.
Weightman first picked up a Sherrin for his home club Beaconsfield and it has since been difficult to claw from his grasp.
“Throughout my younger days footy was always something I wanted to do,” he said.
“(I) hopped down to Beaconsfield from under-9s and (I’m) still listed there today – it has been a really good club for me.
“I have always been there with some really close mates, which have been some of the more enjoyable times with my footy so far.
“Footy was the thing from a really young age that I wanted to do.
“(I’m) still pursuing that dream today.”
In one of Weightman’s final games for Beaconsfield, the electric forward guided his side to victory in a best afield grand final display. Although wearing many famous jumpers along his journey so far, that day will always be a day close to his heart.
“I hadn’t actually won a grand final for Beacy until that day,” he said.
“I had lost a couple throughout my juniors and didn’t get to play a lot of footy that year with that Beacy team.
“I think any chance in a grand final you give it your all and hopefully come out on top.
“Fortunately I was able to play a role and we got the chocolates at the end of the day, which was really rewarding.
“It was great fun and it was one of those Beacy memories that I will cherish for a while.”
Usually for draft prospects, the reality of a bright future at the highest level doesn’t often click until they step foot on to the hallowed turf on debut. But for Weightman it was being made an example of by one of Australia’s most elite athletes that instilled faith into his dreams.
“I think as a Year 10 (student), I had Craig Mottram who is a coach from Haileybury for athletics and he instilled confidence in me,” he said.
“He told a group of people the way I was going and used me as an example how other people should be going about my off-field stuff.
“I think that was a moment I thought ‘this really could happen’.
“I have always wanted it and for someone else, especially a four or five time Olympian to say it like Craig Mottram gave me a lot of confidence and made me feel like it could be a reality one day.”
While Weightman captained the football team to a three-peat in 2019, Mottram wasn’t the only influence he has been inspired by. Essendon champion Matthew Lloyd often passed on his wisdom to him – not only for footy, but in leadership.
“Yeah Lloydy has been huge for me,” he said.
“I am pretty lucky to have a big name who knows so much about footy and just a really good and genuine bloke.
“I have been able to be a sponge from him and I try to take as much advice out of him as possible and learn from the career he had.
“He has a wealth of knowledge and hopefully I can go on to a journey like his, but for now I have been picking his brain, trying to get the clues that helped him achieve that success.
“As a captain I try to be really inclusive – especially in a school environment when you have (Year) 10s, 11s, and 12s playing firsts footy – you really want to welcome the Year 10s as part of the culture.
“I think leadership is natural or not to people – for me I think it comes naturally a little bit.
“Lloydy gave me some really good advice when I was voted in as captain.
“He passed on a quote that James Hird told him when he was captain.
“He just said ‘you have been voted in as captain for what you have done in the past so there is no need to change anything going forward – be yourself and do what made you get given the captaincy’.
“There probably was the chance where I could’ve put more pressure on myself, but having that advice sort of lead me straight and I knew I didn’t have to do that.”
The National Combine is one of the final chances for AFL clubs to test draft prospects – not only physically but mentally. While exhausting, the experience and pressure is something Weightman thrived on.
“Going in everyone says you will have heaps of time and you will be able to relax but that couldn’t have been more polar opposite from my experience,” he said.
“The first day was reasonably chilled out but still a bit on and then from the second to the fourth day I hardly had a breath.
“It was flat out – the second day was a lot of club and media interviews, the whole day, so it got really tiring and towards the end of the day. I repeated myself heaps and (it was) just mentally fatiguing and we hadn’t even done a physical test yet.
“The following two days brought the physical testing – I would probably say they were easier in terms of fatigue.
“It was super busy and I enjoyed the experience.
“It is something you want to have – that experience of 18 clubs watching you. I am pretty good with nerves; I don’t get too nervous in situations like that.
“I stay pretty calm and soak it up if anything – I think it is pretty cool to have all those clubs looking at you, taking notes.
“It is something I more cherish than get nervous about.”
The big stage often scares players, but it just another aspect of the game Weightman would love to take part in.
“Whether it is me or the team I don’t really care who they are cheering for, it is just a bonus,” he said.
“It would be awesome – I think you get another gear out of having that bit of adrenaline from the big crowd, it is a good challenge to see how you cope under that different type of pressure.
“I enjoy that scene; it is something I would look forward too.”
Despite labelling himself ‘a footy head’, Weightman has been working hard this year to find some time away from footy and he has found it in the form of recovery while enjoying some time to complete his hobbies.
“It is something that I have been working on this year,” he said.
“Normally I am a bit of a footy head and I will always just do footy basically, but this year I have worked on getting away from it a bit at times.
“If I get the chance, I like to go for a surf down at Phillip Island with my brother or play a bit of golf – just get into a few other things, you have to get away from footy sometimes.
“We try and do a few things like that but I am also right into my recovery.
“I feel that I can get away from the footy world doing that even though it is for football but I can switch off and put the compression boots on and get away from the footy stuff.
“Normally my recovery is compression boots and the ice baths, which you hear about most people doing these days.
“That is something I am pretty strict on – trying to get ahead of the game by doing that extra recovery stuff to keep me in good stead.”
With a level head on his shoulders, for the next month Weightman is shifting his attention to his studies before he is back into footy. But while footy is second priority for the short period ahead, his future with the game is something that has been dealt a great deal of thought.
“From here in is an exam period so we aren’t able to talk to clubs for about a month now,” he said.
“A couple weeks out from the draft they are allowed to get back in contact with us and put forward your last case before someone takes a punt on you.
“But for now I am in exam mode, so (I’m) going to have a couple weeks off the legs and freshen up hopefully.
“Going forward I think I will start to train in a couple weeks, focus on the little things like getting my diet right, my sleep right.
“Train hard to get to a club and if you do get to a club to hit the ground running so you aren’t chasing the other athletes.
“That is my plan going forward and if all goes well that is how it will sound I think.
“I definitely see myself hopefully going to uni in my second year if I get on a list.
“I would like to go down that path and player management has been something that has caught my eye. It is something I am interested in – I am with Scotty Lucas through Phoenix as my management and I have been able to learn off them, how they operate day by and day and their lifestyle.
“Staying in footy is important for me so that is something if I get given the chance to study and play footy at the same time – there is a course at Deakin I would certainly look at doing.
“Hopefully it is something I can do in a couple of years.”
The first round draft night is set to take place on 27 November in just over a month’s time – a night that won’t just reward Weightman’s hard work this season, but set his future ambitions in place.