THERE’s an old saying that you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.
Nothing epitomises Grant Weeks more than that.
Weeks loves country football and playing with his mates, and he loves life on the land.
And that’s why he’s content that, despite the constant question of why he’s not playing AFL, he’s kicking goals at the QEO, rather than the MCG.
The star forward is arguably the best player in country football and an unstoppable force when it comes to kicking goals.
He’s kicked 571 in 76 games over the past four years since returning to country football from stints in the TAC Cup with the Bendigo Pioneers and in the VFL with the Bendigo Bombers.
Weeks held ambitions of an AFL career during his time with the Pioneers and Bombers, but now aged 24, he has no regrets that things didn’t work out.
“When I was young I had AFL aspirations, and that’s why I went to the Pioneers and Bombers,” Weeks said this week ahead of tomorrow’s Bendigo Football League grand final against Gisborne.
“But you’ve got to move on in life and I’m happy with what I’m doing. There’s no aspirations now to try and head down that path again.
“I’m very happy with what I’m doing. If I wanted to play AFL then I’d still be playing VFL to try to prove myself.
“I know I’m not going to get drafted from Bendigo football, so I’m happy with where I’m playing and happy here on the farm.”
Since joining Golden Square in 2010, Weeks has been a goalkicking phenomenon, who only 12 times in his 58 games with the club has been held to less than five goals in a match, while 18 times he has kicked at least 10.
He booted 157 goals in 2010 and 130 last year and enters tomorrow’s grand final with 160 this season and in sight of the record for the most goals in a BFL season.
That’s 163, set by Eaglehawk’s Frank Crapper in 1933.
Having averaged eight goals a game this year, Weeks needs to kick just half that tomorrow to break Crapper’s record that has stood for 79 years.
“If it happens, it happens and I’d be proud, but obviously, team success is the main thing and without the team, I wouldn’t be anywhere near that record,” Weeks said.
While Weeks is now one of the genuine superstars of country football, like most young players, he was first introduced to football through Auskick while at primary school.
“I started in the Auskick at Colbinabbin. Daryl Fraser ran that and basically, all the young kids in Colbo through that time learned to play footy because of him,” Weeks said.
“That’s why Colbo has always had a good local base of players and been successful, because of the Auskick program.”
From Auskick, Weeks progressed through to the Rochester under-14s, Colbinabbin under-17s, and into the Bendigo Pioneers’ schoolboys program, before making the step up to senior football with his home club, Colbinabbin, in 2004.
In his first senior season, he kicked 31 goals playing half-forward and in the pocket and, as a 16-year-old, was a member of the Grasshoppers’ Heathcote District premiership team.
His first breakout performance came that season on the big stage of the second semi-final when he kicked five of Colbinabbin's 10 goals in a 21-point loss to White Hills.
The 2004 premiership team was coached by Darryl Wilson, who for the past two years has coached rival BFL club, Strathfieldsaye.
"I've got a fairly tight bond with Darryl and, no doubt, he taught me a lot about footy and gave me the opportunity to play against men," Weeks said.
"And that's how you learn to play footy, when you're challenged and up against it."
I'm grateful I got that opportunity back in 2004, and not many blokes can say they got to play in a senior flag when they were 16."
Wilson recalls it was clear from his first season of senior football that Weeks was going to be something special
."He was only a kid, but he certainly had talent and was always a particularly good mark for his size," Wilson said.
"He probably came of age a bit in that second semi-final against White Hills."
Following the 2004 flag with Colbinabbin, Weeks spent the next two seasons with the Bendigo Pioneers, kicking 38 goals in 23 games during those two years, in which he won back-to-back goalkicking awards.
He represented Victoria Country at the AFL breeding ground of the national under-18 championships both seasons, but spent much of his second year at the Pioneers hampered by stress fractures, which seemingly put off recruiters.
"I had stress fractures in my foot for probably two thirds of that year, but we couldn't figure out what was wrong because they were only small," Weeks said.
"I ended up needing to have a bone graft, so that was obviously a big setback when you're trying to put your name forward. Unfortunately, things didn't fall my way at that stage."
Weeks' coach for his two years at the Pioneers was Mark Ellis."
When he came through the Pioneers he was a terrific young fella," Ellis said.
"He was a great kid to coach, very popular among his team-mates and showed he had an enormous amount of ability."
Having been overlooked in the AFL national and rookie drafts after the 2006 TAC Cup season, Weeks' next move was to the Bendigo Bombers in the VFL.
It was a frustrating two seasons at the Bombers for Weeks as - with Essendon-listed players filling most of the team each week - he was unable to hold down a regular senior spot.
But he showed on a Sunday afternoon against Collingwood in round 15, 2008, what he was capable of at senior level when he kicked five of the Bombers' six goals in a 90-point loss at Visy Park.
"I only played five or six senior games that first year, and maybe 12 or 13 the second season," Weeks said.
"With Essendon wanting their players to develop in the VFL, it got a bit frustrating as a local not getting picked when perhaps you should have been, but that's the way it went.
"That day against Collingwood I got the opportunity to play full-forward and kicked a few goals, but the next week I was probably dropped."
After two years with the Bombers, Weeks returned to Colbinabbin in 2009 and booted 124 goals, but the season ended in disappointment when the Grasshoppers were beaten by Heathcote by four points in the grand final.
He enjoyed his year back home, before Golden Square coach Nick Carter's persistence in trying to lure Weeks to MyJet Oval paid off in October, 2009 when he signed with the Bulldogs.
And Weeks hasn't looked back, having collected two premiership medals - perhaps a third by 5pm tomorrow - and three Ron Best medals as the BFL's leading goalkicker since joining the Bulldogs.
"Golden Square probably didn't have a key forward, so I took the opportunity a couple of years ago to go there and have loved every minute of it," Weeks said.
"There's a lot of blokes that would love to play full-forward at Golden Square, and I'm lucky enough to get that chance.
"Having had guys like Simon Rosa, Luke Hammond, Mark Lloyd, Nathan Bell, Jack Geary and so on kicking the ball from the midfield, it's not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
"I'm very grateful to be in the position I'm in."
While Weeks - also a more than handy bush cricketer, who took a hat-trick for Colbinabbin in January this year - is at home in the goalsquare on a Saturday afternoon for the Bulldogs, he's equally at home running the family grain farm with his father, Graeme.
"I enjoy working with my dad, and to be honest, I'm happy being a farmer for the rest of my life," Weeks said.