Cody Weightman celebrates a goal in 2023 and (inset) surfing in the Mentawai Islands. Pictures: AFL Photos, Instagram/@codyweightman

WITH his mop of bleached blond hair, it's little surprise Cody Weightman often trades the Sherrin for a surfboard.

During this off-season the Western Bulldogs forward, free of surgery, took that passion to Indonesia.

And while Weightman lapped up time in the sun in Bali, it was around 150 kilometres off the western coast of Sumatra in the Mentawai Islands the 23-year-old derived, what he describes, as some serious "benefits".

Training in the heat – alongside three-time premiership Richmond defender Nick Vlastuin – has seen Weightman return to Whitten Oval in peak condition, slashing time off his PBs.

"I definitely still train when I'm travelling and I think a big part of it is if you do go away, you come back refreshed and you actually want to run," Weightman said.

"When I've had surgery, it obviously doesn't help with your running, but I think sometimes you can get caught in a bit of an off-season grind and you're just running to the program because you have to.

"Me and Nick trained in the Mentawai and we got some got some good heat benefits from that, I think, which is a bonus.

"To come back really refreshed, I think is the main thing.

"And you actually want to train hard because you've had worse facilities over there. And it feels easier when you're here, which is great."

Emblematic of his team, Weightman navigated a frustrating road in 2023. Groin surgery kept him grounded for the first month of the season.

"I had a few little things last year and probably my whole career so far. I think that's just a part of footy, really," he says.

"I think the biggest thing for me is just I've learnt how to play through injury now so when I do feel fresh, that's exciting.

"And I'm feeling pretty good at the moment. No surgery is a massive win."


On the day of this interview, Weightman is playing in spurts through the midfield in match simulation. He calls it his "second favourite" position – and that's premise of this particular part of the session, to have a go in another part of the ground.

Weightman says he's "open" to attending more centre bounces, but he doesn't promise anything flashy.

"There was a little bit of that last year here and there, but we'll see what the team sort of needs. And if it's that, then that'll be exciting," he said.

"I'd look to come in and provide a bit of energy. Just make it messy, I think.

"Nothing too fancy or clean. I'll leave that to (captain Marcus Bontempelli) and a few of the other guys that are bona fide midfielders."

Cody Weightman and Marcus Bontempelli at a Western Bulldogs training session at Marvel Stadium on August 3, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

One guy that won't feature in the guts at all this season is Bailey Smith. The cult figure is diligently doing his rehab in the Bulldogs' new-look gym in what is his last contracted season at Whitten Oval.

Smith's ACL injury, suffered in December. has largely been described as a devastating blow, but Weightman is more of a half-glass full kind of person.

"This is another challenge for him and I'm sure he's going to crunch it," Weightman said.

"I had a good chat to him about the opportunities this actually provides for him. 

"For someone in his in his peak powers, to have a year off and focus on a few other things as well as footy, I think that's really exciting for him.

"Hopefully next year he can come out and have some real impact for us. But I think it's exciting, too, off field. He's going to do some big things, I think."

Bailey Smith (centre) and Cody Weightman celebrate a goal with teammates during the Western Bulldogs' clash with Carlton in round nine, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

While Smith won't be part of coach Luke Beveridge's midfield mix this year, another first-round draft pick is every chance.

Ryley Sanders – selected at No.6 at last year's AFL Draft – is impressing with his professionalism off the field, and his talent on it.

"He's a great kid, really disciplined," Weightman said.

"He's fitting in really well. He's an exciting player, really clean, and looks to drive his legs out of stoppages.

"He's done everything right so far."

Ryley Sanders at Western Bulldogs training on November 27, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Looking around Whitten Oval the changes are obvious.

The new indoor training facilities are first-class, while the Whitten Stand is in its final phases of the build.

Then there's the coaching panel. In: Alex Johnson, Matt Egan, Jarryn Geary, Daniel Pratt. Out: Rohan Smith, Marc Webb, Travis Varcoe, Stefan Martin.

It's a fair amount of change. But Weightman is confident they are the additional building blocks the club needs to realise the potential of its list – and get back to the kind of form that took the Bulldogs to the 2021 Grand Final.

"I think over the last couple of years we've talked about we feel like our team's actually gotten better since '21 when we challenged for premierships," Weightman said.  

"Some things are starting to come together now at the club and it's starting to feel like it's running really smoothly.

"So I think that's going to go a long way to hopefully seeing a bit of on-field success."