ONE OF the most common questions about Melbourne this year revolved around Sam Weideman.

It was a simple one: "Why isn't he playing?"

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Weideman laughed this week when the topic came up. He can afford to now, having played six straight matches in the same season for just the second time in his fledgling AFL career. 

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His journey to becoming the Demons' No.1 key forward and leading the League in average marks inside 50 shouldn't be surprising, but would have been long odds a matter of weeks ago.

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The Demons turned to discarded Bomber Mitch Brown then first-year ruckman Luke Jackson as Tom McDonald's sidekick in attack before Weideman's chance finally arrived.

In fact, the 23-year-old – the No.9 draft pick in 2015, behind Josh Schache, but ahead of Harry McKay, Charlie Curnow and Harry Himmelberg – was overlooked for the first five rounds.

I needed to go through that to get some hunger back

- Sam Weideman

That isn't how things were supposed to go after Weideman's barnstorming finish to the 2018 season, including a towering 24-possession, three-goal display in eliminating Geelong from the finals.

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Melbourne shipped Jesse Hogan off to Fremantle barely a month after that game, in a deal designed to secure Steven May from Gold Coast and shore up the club's backline.

Part of the thinking was Weideman was ready to replace Hogan, whose injury absence at the end of that year enabled his younger teammate to thrive after coming into the senior side.

That coincided with him being out of contract last year.

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"I definitely saw it as an opportunity. We had Tommy McDonald playing down there, but it was a good chance for me to cement my spot," Weideman told AFL.com.au.

"Jesse's a fantastic player and it left a bit of a hole down there, so I felt that was an opportunity for me. We weren't playing great footy, and it did weigh me down a little bit.

"There were a lot of people relying on me to perform as a key forward and I wasn't playing well at all, to be honest.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself and didn't grab that chance the way I should have."

Demon Sam Weideman leaves the field after missing a match-winning shot after the siren against Adelaide in round 11, 2019. Picture: AFL Photos

Hip and calf injuries didn't help his cause, while a broken jaw in a collision with ex-teammate Declan Keilty in a VFL game ended his 2019 season.

Weideman made a pledge to turn things around this past pre-season, including adopting a more aggressive mindset and an attitude transformation. In his words: "I needed to change what I was about."

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As part of that, he approached May looking for help, and the former Gold Coast co-captain took him under his wing.

It was common to see the two of them battling it out over the summer at Gosch's Paddock, much like May used to at the Suns with Tom Lynch. 

Sam Weideman by the numbers in 2020

Statistic

Averages

Champion Data rating

Goals

2

Elite

Shots at goal

3.5

Above average

Score involvements

5

Elite

Marks inside 50

3

Elite

Marks

4

Above average

Contested marks

1.8

Above average

Marks on lead

1.2

Above average

 

"I'd love to say I've beaten him a lot, but it's not really the case," Weideman said.

"I needed someone who's elite at what they do, in terms of marking craft, and I've had a few floggings in my time, but it's great to learn from."

Weideman also worked closely with assistant coaches Justin Plapp and Troy Chaplin and head of development Matthew Egan.

However, he missed round one selection, then the season went into shutdown mode, because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The doubts set in, and Weideman began questioning where his career was at. His isolation training partner, Jake Lever, played a major role from there in rebuilding his confidence.

Simon Goodwin and the Demons made him wait longer, with a bag of five goals in a scratch match against Carlton also not enough for a call-up.

They even toyed with a one-tall forward line before recalling Weideman in round six against Gold Coast. So, one last time, why wasn't he playing?

In short, Weideman had to improve his one-on-one work and positioning – "I was probably still really weak in contests" – and he was double-grabbing at marks too often.

Sam Weideman (left) crashes a pack against Hawthorn in round seven. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

It was no longer enough for him just to be neutralising aerial contests. The results since he's been back have been very promising.

Weideman's kicked multiple goals in five of his six matches and it's no coincidence that Melbourne's scoring, efficiency inside 50 and overall form have spiked significantly.

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The frustrated footballer who was getting "pretty desperate" is now feeling a whole lot better, although he has no intention of getting too comfortable again.

"I thought about last year, how I was playing and how disappointing that was, and I wanted to rectify that and change the perception of me as a player – and I wasn't getting that chance," Weideman said.

"But I think now I'm starting to get a little more consistency and stringing games together. It's amazing how it can shift.

"It took a bit of patience, but there were a lot of things I needed to improve on. It feels like I've got a bit of reward now, and upon reflection I needed to go through that to get some hunger back and stay competitive for my spot in the side."