Cody Weightman is one of the most polarising players in the AFL, despite playing in just his third season at the top level.
Weightman, 21, has developed into an integral part of the Western Bulldogs lineup to play every game so far in 2022 after a strong, yet maligned start to his career.
The small forward has drawn the ire of many opposition fans for how he plays the game. Weightman kicked four goals – all from free kicks – in last year’s Elimination Final win over Essendon, and the youngster has put up similar performances against several other sides to earn a niggling reputation.
Weightman was asked on SEN Breakfast by Melbourne great Garry Lyon what it’s like to have his reputation, the youngster suggesting that overall, it doesn’t affect his play.
“Certainly, that’s been a factor in the past 12 months and to be honest, it doesn’t faze me at all,” the young Bulldog said.
“It’s something that Lisa (Stevens) at the club, she sort of comes and talks to me about it, she’s our psychologist.
“I didn’t actually have any problem with it and it was good just to hear her opinions on it - the way society is, if you’re going well (then) they’re going to try and nit-pick and try to pull you down because at the end of the day if I’m performing and doing well for the Western Bulldogs it’s only threatening other teams' chances of beating us.
“Unfortunately I think that is the tall poppy syndrome in Australia and that’s just how that is, but I’m very comfortable doing what I’m doing and I don’t think it’s going to affect my game.”
Weightman says receiving free kicks is part of a “skillset” that he looks to develop.
“I think I do have an ability to draw free kicks and I think that’s a skillset rather than a flop or whatever you call that because there are skills you can do … whether it’s taking the ball when you’re about to get tackled or ball control, so you don’t actually have possession and test out the defender if they’re going to grab it or not,” Weightman continued.
“There is a skill to it and people won’t see that, but I think there’s a deeper understanding that goes into it and I know there’s a lot of support out there for me as well which is super amazing, I’m very grateful for everyone who does see the work we put in and see us in a shining light rather than a dim light.”
Weightman also added that he’s feeling more comfortable in the Dogs’ forward line in 2022, suggesting his role isn’t all about kicking goals.
“I’m definitely feeling comfortable in my role now, and I know what I have to go and do,” Weightman said.
“I suppose you get the five goals off the back of that, but it’s certainly not my role to go out and kick bags of goals. I’m keeping it simple now and understanding exactly what I’ve got to do – it’s given me a lot of clarity and confidence going in.
“Our forward line has been chopped and changed since I’ve been in the team, so (it’s also about) building chemistry with who we’ve got.
“That also definitely helps – just spending time out there and getting comfortable in playing footy out there.”
The Bulldogs take on Adelaide in Round 6 in their first game in Ballarat for the season.