In the first Where are they now? of 2016, we reminisce with a journeyman and one of the biggest cult heroes in Adelaide Football Club history, Wayne Weidemann.
Growing up in the Victorian town of Fish Creek, football was a big part of Wayne Weidemann’s life from an early age. His father, Peter, captained the Collingwood Under-19s and went on to play five senior games for the club in the early 1960s. From as early as Wayne can remember, he would watch his father on weekends. He soon graduated from spectator to player …
“On Saturdays, Dad would play for Collingwood in the morning and then the Noble Park seniors in the afternoon. As a family, we spent a lot of time at the footy. I started playing in the Under-8s at Fish Creek and went all the way through the ranks.
“Like most kids in the country, I played senior footy at 15-16 years or age. I started off in the fifths back in those days and played at half time of the senior games. Then went to the fours, thirds, seconds and finally played seniors.
“Dad didn’t push us to play VFL/AFL, but he did encourage us to pursue the best footy we could play. If that meant going to a better competition and trying your luck there, he supported us doing that.
“I certainly had a couple of goes at trying to make it!”
While Wayne was still living in Fish Creek, he was approached by St Kilda …
“I had the opportunity to play a few games with St Kilda under Graeme Gellie and then got invited back to do a pre-season with the Saints. I had a good summer and some good trial games, but I didn’t end up making it.
“I was probably a little bit disappointed because I thought I was good enough and my trial form was good. People probably won’t believe this, but I kicked five goals from a wing during a trial game for St Kilda. Graeme Gellie asked me to sit on the bench for an A-grade game with five or six other players, but I never took the field.
“I went to training that week and one night Graeme said to me, ‘We’d like to talk to you after training’. I thought, ‘This is great. I reckon they’re going to offer me a contract or ask me to stay on’. It was pretty brutal back then. They just took me into a room and said, ‘We’re not going on with you. You can go back to your club in Fish Creek’.
“That was all the communication you got back then, so away I went with my tail between my legs.”
Next came invitations from Richmond and Collingwood …
“The following year (1988), I got an invite from Richmond when Kevin Bartlett was there. I did the pre-season up until Christmas and during that time I got a letter from Collingwood asking if I wanted to go out there.
“I thought well, I barrack for Collingwood and Dad played there, so why not go? I trained with Richmond pre-Christmas and then Collingwood under Leigh Matthews post-Christmas.
“I played a few trial games from memory and, funnily enough, Michael Taylor was the coach of the Magpies reserves at the time. That was my first introduction to Michael and then, of course, I ran into him again a few years later at the Crows.
“Collingwood had 120-odd recruits come out to train with them. Only one bloke who trialled that year got picked and that was Shane Kerrison, who ended up being a 1990 premiership player.”
Disappointed but desperate to keep his AFL dream alive, Weidemann moved interstate not once but twice in his early-20s …
“It was disappointing to miss out again at Collingwood. I thought my AFL dream was over, and that I probably wouldn’t get another crack at it in Victoria. That’s why I went to Canberra to play for Eastlake where I would, hopefully, get looked at by the Sydney Swans.
“Nothing eventuated there until (West Torrens Coach) Andy Bennett saw me playing down in Tasmania representing the ACT, and invited me across to West Torrens. I didn’t know a lot about the SANFL at that stage, but I knew it was regarded as the best competition outside of Victoria.
“I thought, ‘We’ve already moved from cold Victoria to an even colder Canberra, let’s go over to sunny Adelaide and give it a go’.”
Weidemann lined up in the SANFL in the 1990 season and did enough to receive an invitation to train with the fledgling Crows ahead of their inception into the AFL in 1991. But first came an approach and, eventually, a setback from a fourth Victorian-based club …
“I jumped at the opportunity to train with the Crows. It was odd because the Crows had formed and the invites to train had gone out. I actually think they’d already started training but because I played my first footy in Victoria, I was still eligible to be drafted. The Crows couldn’t do anything about it until after the draft.
“At that particular time, I’d been talking to Geelong and had a meeting with them in my rental property at Torrensville! I think it’s probably what they said to most kids, but they told me ‘If we get the opportunity we’ll draft you and if we don’t, we’ve obviously gone with someone else’.
“Draft day came and went and my name didn’t get called out. (Adelaide Football Manager) Neil Kerley called me the next day and said, ‘Ok, you’ve missed out on the draft, but let’s see you out on the track next week’.
“I found it pretty tough because I hadn’t done a lot of training at that stage and had been on a couple of holidays ... I was a little bit overweight! In those days, the time trial was all the way around Footy Park. Out of 120 blokes doing the trial, I was the third-last home! I only beat Rudi Mandemaker and Greg Phillips home, so I was coming from a long way back!”
Weidemann made his long-awaited AFL debut at the age of 24 when he lined up for the Crows against Hawthorn at Waverley in Round 16, 1991. The Hawks cruised to a 63-point win, but it was still a day to remember for the lad from country Victoria …
“It was freezing cold. We had blankets on the bench trying to keep us warm. I think I was the proudest I could be that day. Running out on the field and knowing that my Mum, Dad and family were there was a pretty big thrill. A few people from Fish Creek even missed out on watching the local side play to come and see me make my debut.
“I can’t remember how I went, or how many possessions I got. My most vivid memory is of running out onto the ground and thinking, ‘This is pretty good. I’ve finally got here’.”
The rugged midfielder resembled a Viking with his long blond hair and goatee. Adding to the fearsome footballer’s aura was the chant of ‘WEEEEEEED’ that went up whenever he went near the ball …
“I can’t really remember where it started. Bruce Lindsay is dirty on me because he thinks I pinched it from him at West Torrens because he got the ‘Bruuuuuuce!’ chant there.
“It was just something that started and then grew. There were a few people in the crowd who did it and then a few more latched on over time. All of a sudden, everyone was doing it.
“It turned into quite a funny thing because even when I stuffed something up, which was probably quite often looking back at the videos, the crowd would still chant! It went all the way back to my home town and my sister started copping the chant on the netball court. My Mum would get it walking around the boundary at the footy or netball. It was a bit of fun.
“I still get it a bit today. I think half of them just take the mickey out of me now, though! It’s nice that they remember an old bloke who gave AFL footy away 20 years ago.”
Weidemann played in Adelaide’s first-ever final against Hawthorn in 1993. On that day, the Jarman brothers went head to head, and Darren was ironed out by Wayne Weidemann at the opening bounce …
“I got Darren pretty flush. I think it was as much to do with the cricket pitch at the MCG. In those days, they still had the turf wicket in the middle of the ground and it was a pretty hard surface to land on.
“I actually didn’t realise the impact of the hit at the time. I was playing on the half-forward flank and my opponent was Gary Ayres, who obviously went on to be coach of the Crows. When I got back to my position, Ayresy started roughing me up a little bit. I didn’t realise what he was on about until I looked back and saw Darren still pretty groggy from the collision.
“I don’t think Darren forgave me for a while and neither did Andrew! It was just one of those things in footy. I wish it was planned because I could’ve taken more credit for it but it was accidental, Darren!”
Weidemann went on to play 68 AFL games across six seasons. He feels privileged to have been part of the Adelaide Football Club in its infancy …
“I have vivid memories of the ‘Snake Pit’ and long hours at training with limited facilities. We were trying to catch up to the rest of the competition, as ‘Cornesy’ (Coach Graham Cornes) told us. Being part of a team that went from having change rooms under the grandstand at Footy Park to a massive $2million facility across the road, and then the $20million facility over the top of what we thought was the pinnacle.
“The public getting onboard was amazing too. It was just a great time to be part of.”
He retired from the AFL at the end of 1996, but remains involved in football to this day. Weidemann had a coaching stint in Tasmania before returning to SA to lead West Adelaide for two seasons. Now, he coaches Broadview and runs around in an Over-35s competition …
“It’s terrific that the (Over-35s) competition is available for blokes that think they can still run around. It’s very tame until you get to the state program and then it ramps up. Every second Sunday, it’s nice to have a kick and a catch. You don’t have to be that fit. You just play within yourself, if you want to chase a bloke you can, or you can let him have the ball! I’m still coaching at Broadview and have done 4-5 years with Woodville South with the Under-12s, Under-14s and Under-16s. I’ve been involved with footy since the age of six and am still involved with it now. It’s been a long time in footy.”
Weidemann, who works for Club sponsor Revolution Roofing, has three kids with wife Susan: daughters Emma (20) and Rachel (18) and son Jake (17). He’s also involved with the Adelaide Football Club Past Players and follows the team’s progress closely despite not being able to attend many games because of his own commitments …
“I think the work the Past Players do is great. There will come a day when I’m not involved in footy in any capacity, and we’ll be able to get to a few more games and events.
“There’s no doubt the Crows are my team. Two blokes I’d go to war with are Taylor Walker and Rory Sloane. I’ve also jumped on Eddie’s bandwagon as well! I follow Brodie Smith too because he’s wearing my number, which he’s got every right to claim for himself now.”