Polaris

Bendigo FNLRichard Jones | Outstanding spearhead Grant Weeks was closing in on the Bendigo Football and Netball League goalkicking record as August loomed back in 2010.

The 21-year-old had snagged 107 majors in 13 rounds and sat atop the then VCFL state goals tally. Incidentally, Mitiamo’s Ryan Haythorpe was in fourth spot on 83. Weeks went on to bag 145 goals nine years ago and followed up with 148 two years later to take the BFNL record from Eaglehawk’s Frank Crapper --- a mark set in 1933. In 2010 Weeka was only 21, stood at 185 cm (6 feet 1 inch) and weighed 90 kg.

He’d been recruited from Colbinabbin where he’d played as a junior before moving on to the TAC Cup with the Bendigo Pioneers (2005-06) and the VFL Bendigo Bombers (2007-08). Let’s go back to his Colbo career where he’d lined up as a full-forward for the first time in his career. The wheat farmer lad from the district delighted his home town Colbo club supporters and proved his class with 124 goals in 18 games. This 2009 tally included 16 one Saturday against Huntly and even though Weeks booted six goals on grand final day the Grasshoppers went down to Heathcote by four points.

Weeka’s stellar form proved an irresistible magnet to Golden Square’s new coach Nick Carter. They’d played together with the Bendigo Bombers after Carter’s AFL career (25 games with Fitzroy, Brisbane Lions and Melbourne) had been completed. “He’d had a good season out at Colbo, but that standard of footy wasn’t really where he needed to be,” the new coach said. “He hasn’t come to Square for money. He just likes the culture of the place, so realistically he could probably secure three times more somewhere else.” So Weeks donned the blue and gold Square guernsey. He speared home nine goals in his BFNL debut against South Bendigo, in the re-match of the 2009 grand final. He passed 50 goals by round 6 slotting 11 against Kyneton to follow up the same total: his 11 in the Gisborne game a week earlier.

The full-forward’s effort against new club Strathfieldsaye three weeks after the Kyneton fixture was even more notable. Weeka drilled 12 after starting the game as a defender. “He told me before the game --- I’m not manning up on anyone. “So I gave him a run in the backline, but after a while I put him back in the forward line and what did Weeka do: be kicked 12,” said Carter. Grant Weeks isn’t particularly tall for a full-forward. But he always positioned himself carefully and was a strong overhead mark, both on the lead and in contested situations. I was down at the Camp Reserve in round 12 that season when Weeka needed eight goals to reach his century. He had reached that magical tally very early in the third term and went on to bag a remarkable 14. He’d been mobbed, of course, by Square juniors and other supporters who swarmed over the fence to shake his hand and clap him on the back.

Uncharacteristically Weeks managed just one goal the following week against Sandhurst but it was a wet, cold and miserable late July afternoon and the emotions were a week behind him. So how did it all start out --- first at Colbo and then with the Pioneers. Well, Weeka won the Grasshoppers’ under-17 best and fairest award when he was just 15. A year later he was an important cog in Colbinabbin’s 2004 HDFL senior premiership side. Noting his great promise the hierarchy of the Bendigo Pioneers TAC Cup team invited Weeks to join their list. In 2005 he played as a half-forward for the Pioneers and his form was so impressive Weeks was selected in the Victorian Country side which played in the national under-18 championships.

“After that series the Pioneers blokes told me that if I wanted to get drafted I had to have a turn in the midfield, as well,” Weeks recalled. So that’s where he played in 2006. He held his own in the Pioneers’ running brigade dominated by soon-to-be Geelong draftee, Joel Selwood. Weeka was again selected in the Victoria Country under-18 team. And then fate took a hand.

His hopes of being drafted evaporated when he suffered a stress fracture in his left foot, “Most of the talk was about Joel and he was a long way above everyone else. I knew I wasn’t up to his standard. “The injury I had made it tougher for me as I needed surgery, but I was still hoping clubs would overlook it.” But they didn’t and the Colbo hopeful was ignored in the pre-season and rookie drafts that year. Selwood was snapped up and it’s history now he played in Geelong’s 2007 premiership side which smashed Port Adelaide in the AFL grand final. Keen to keep playing at a high level Weeks ran around with the Bendigo Bombers VFL team in 2007 and 2008 before deciding it was time to switch back to other things. “I’m on a farm --- it’s just me and the old man --- so work commitments made it too hard to stay with the Bombers let alone make it to all of their training sessions.”

Nine years ago Weeka was a team member of a very talented Victorian major league line-up. There was also a Victorian side in Division 2, a side which was comprised of what was then called minor (or district) league clubs. The Division 2 team was coached by Hawthorn legend Peter Knights. One of Weeks’ teammates was the decorated Ballarat league champion Jarrod Edwards. He’d won the past four Ballarat F.L. fairest and best medals. Weeka and his teammates were looking forward to the 2010 series. In 2009 the Victorians went down to ACT in the final, but with scouts from the newly-formed AFL clubs --- the Gold Coast Suns and the Greater Western Sydney Giants --- hovering about in Canberra Weeks was hopeful good form would result in being swept up in a recruiter’s net. Victorian 1 won the senior title with a massive win over South Australia: 23.13 (151) to 9.12 (66).

Weeka kicked five goals, Kristan Height (later to play with Sandhurst and win the 2016 Michelsen) nailed four while Square’s Travis Baird booted three. The Suns and Giants scouts looked elsewhere. Weeks was back in Square colours in 2011 and 2012. So as noted in 2010 he’d topped the goalkicking table with 145, kept going in 2011 with 125 and in 2012 nailed 148. But the standout effort from the ex-Colbo star was Weeks’ ultimate position on top of the all-time BFNL goalkicking tally. With 12 majors in that early 2012 final series to add to his 148 home-and-away majors Weeka had 160.

In 1933 Crapper had booted 163: 154 in the home-and-away matches and nine in the finals. Weeks needed just four goals on grand final day. He got that figure exactly – although the fourth was booted midway through the final quarter --- to end up with 164 goals. He’d toppled Frank Crapper, by one major, from the position of the all-time league champion goalkicker. (With thanks to Victorian country footy writer Adam McNicol)