Welcome to the 2022 Free Agency & Trade Period analysis series. Over the next fortnight, the plan is to look at every player heading to a new club. It’s not going to be a ‘who won the trade’ series, but rather a look at how players fit into existing setups, or what changes they may force.
When looking at a trade, a quote from Ben Falk of Cleaning the Glass (NBA) is always in the back of my mind:
“When analysing a team’s moves, we first have to acknowledge that we don’t truly know what their goals are. If their goals are different from our assumptions, our analysis won’t be correct.”
I share that quote now because I’m looking at Weideman’s move to Essendon through the lens of (primarily a) key forward or nothing.
By the end of Melbourne’s season, Simon Goodwin and the coaching staff had essentially put a line through Weideman’s name.
From Round 11 onwards, with Tom McDonald out of commission due to injury, the Demons were screaming out for another marking target to round out their forward line.
Weideman was only trusted to fill that role once (Round 11), with his remaining games as a replacement for the back-up ruck (Round 15), ruck (Round 16) or Ben Brown (Round 19, 20). Melbourne decided to go with a smaller forward line rather than play Weideman.
In seven seasons, Weideman was unable to cement a place in Melbourne’s best 22 for any large amount of time. His best run of games came in 2020, playing the last 13 of the season for a return of 19 goals.
At this stage of his career Weideman floats in and out of games far too often. He’s not on an island amongst key forwards in doing that, but the difference is that in his quiet times he’s not enough of a presence to occupy defenders.
Weideman is inconsistent when the ball is in the air, and once it hits the ground he’s ineffective. That allows the defensive unit to peel off, intercept elsewhere, and as a result the forward structure falls down far too often.
If Essendon are to get use out of Weideman, they have to either fix these issues, or hope there’s a level of improvement in him which hasn’t been unlocked yet.
As it stands he projects as well behind Peter Wright* and Harry Jones, and the move may be to fill a gap in a preferred three-tall forward setup.
(*There’ll be some comparisons between Weideman and Wright, but that’s lazy. Wright showed much more in his time at Gold Coast and was best 22 for three of his six seasons; something Weideman hasn’t achieved)
In Brad Scott’s time at North Melbourne, it was nearly exclusively a three-tall setup. From Petrie/Tarrant/Hansen in 2012 to Brown/Larkey/Wood (playing tall, not like his current role at St Kilda) in 2019, that was the constant for the forward half to build around.
An extra body to work towards that makes sense. Sometimes in the early stages of a style build it’s all about finding placeholders to fill a gap – think of the yearly ‘team x needs player y to play a role while youngster z develops’ conversation all around the league.
For Weideman to graduate past a stopgap and into a regular contributor, it’s reliant on Essendon’s development to unlock a side of him we haven’t seen at AFL level yet.
If you’ve missed any of the Free Agency & Trade Analysis posts, here’s where to catch up:
Karl Amon, Hawthorn
Josh Corbett, Fremantle
Tanner Bruhn, Geelong
Aaron Francis, Sydney | Lachie Hunter & Josh Schache, Melbourne | Tom Mitchell, Collingwood | Ollie Henry, Geelong | Cooper Stephens and Lloyd Meek, Hawthorn | Josh Dunkley, Brisbane | Rory Lobb, Western Bulldogs | Jaeger O’Meara, Fremantle