WHEN John Nicholls hung the best-and-fairest bauble over Jacob Weitering’s head again last Sunday night, amongst the 1,400 watching on from the floor of the Crown Palladium was Geoff Southby.
For Southby, this was a moment which truly resonated. As a dual club champion in his inaugural season of 1971 and again in the premiership season of ’72 - and as a former full-back par excellence - Southby knows the feeling. Which is why the Carlton Legend was amongst the first to offer his heartiest congratulations to Weitering in the immediate aftermath of his victory with 210 votes ahead of the half-back flanker Nic Newman with 193.
“I’m extremely chuffed as a former full-back to see him (Weitering) win. He had a great year,” said Southby, a 268-game Hall of Fame Legend who savoured Grand Final successes under the watch of two captain-coaches in Nicholls and Alex Jesaulenko.
“His finals series was excellent, as well as the last 15 games which were very, very consistent. He’s a great leader of the Club now and I’m looking forward to him continuing on with that sort of form next year, because we’re going to need him in the same sort of form. ”
Though backmen are afforded scant regard by field umpires in the Brownlow Medal (Weitering himself polled six votes in the 2023 count), it’s a matter of fact that in the past decade three backmen have taken the John Nicholls Medal home – Kade Simpson in 2013, Sam Docherty in 2016 and Weitering for the first time in 2020 and now 2023.
And to perfect the art of full-back play, “you’ve got to love what you’re doing” to quote Southby.
“You’ve also got to put up with the pain of getting goals kicked on you at times . . . and when I played getting a goal kicked on you was like getting a knife in the back. But you’re also lucky in AFL football that you can do something positive and to turn it into a positive you’ve got to do something creative as well.”
Earlier in the evening, Southby - as representative for the Spirit of Carlton Past and Present Players and Officials - presented wingman Blake Acres with the Spirit of Carlton award for embodying the spirit of the Carlton Football Club both on and off the field.
Southby said that Acres, by his on-field deeds, reflected what the Spirit of Carlton is all about – which he said was a throwback to the Barassi years and his on-field contemporaries like McKay and Walls.
As Southby said: “In the days when I was first there (at Carlton) under Ron Barassi we always used to talk about the spirit of Carlton when we needed to find something different and that little bit extra”.