IF YOU feel like Jacob Weitering’s 100-game milestone has come quickly, he agrees with you — partly.
When Weitering joins the 100 club this weekend, he will narrowly miss out on the top 10 youngest players in Carlton history to reach the milestone: he will be two weeks older than Wayne Harmes’ 23 years and 143 days in 1983.
It’s been a memorable ride for Weitering, who arrived at the Blues with all the expectation in the world as the No.1 pick. For all intents and purposes, he has matched those lofty standards — but not without some self-admitted hiccups along the way.
Weitering instantly looked back upon a personally difficult 2018 year as the catalyst for his uptick in form, culminating in being crowned the 2020 John Nicholls Medallist.
“That year, I played the first four games, got injured, missed two and then came back through the VFL,” Weitering said.
“That was probably the turning point, when I was told ‘you’re going to come back through the VFL’. To hear that, it was certainly a punch in the gut.
“But at the same time, it was the relieving of pressure. There’s a fair bit of expectation as the No.1 pick, to play now and play consistently.
“It was funny: the first VFL game I played was against Frankston down at Frankston in front of half of the peninsula, who I either played with or against.
“That was probably the most nervous I was before a game that I’ve ever played, and probably one of the best games I’ve played. That was probably the big day.”
Rewinding to the beginning when speaking on SEN’s Whateley, Weitering reflected on how he walked into a club with its fair share of top picks in the system.
With Bryce Gibbs, Matthew Kreuzer, Marc Murphy and former VFL coach Josh Fraser joined by former No.2 draft picks Dale Thomas and Andrew Walker, Weitering had his fair share of sounding boards.
However, he said the biggest lesson he learnt was needing to do it his own way.
“You do ask questions and try and what worked for them and what didn’t, but at the end of the day it does come down to you as an individual,” he said.
“There’s definitely an element of mental toughness… trying to work through some negatives that were going on both on and off the field for me.
“Family and friends are important. Dale Amos contributed a lot too, while Sam Docherty was a mentor and a friend.
“It was about working through little mental hurdles and going out on the training track each week and working bloody hard. I eventually dug myself out and was able to get some games towards the back end of the year and play some consistent football after that.”
It was that “consistent football” which yielded him recognition as Carlton’s best-and-fairest player for the 2020 season, with the 2021 campaign showcasing a similar form line for the gun defender.
Named in last year’s All-Australian squad and having narrowly missed selection in the final team, Weitering’s outstanding form in the one-on-one contest has once again stood up against some of the competition’s best.
Weitering said that his impending century of games meant he had a sense of belonging when competing against the competition’s best, and the end game of team success was the next step.
“You learn something every game you play, and that’s 100 learning opportunities for me coming up this week,” he said.
“’Comfortable’ isn’t the word, but I’m able to go into each week really confident in the way I’m playing and the way I’m training and who I’m going out there and doing it with. It’s a good feeling to have, but there are always more opportunities to get better.
“An individual accolade came about last year which was awesome, but the end result - the goal for me - is team success. It’s been a bumpy road so far to start this year, but hopefully we can change that this week.”