TRULY DESERVING: In what has been seen as long overdue, the name of Mildura City Oval has officially been renamed Brian Weightman Oval in honour of the local sporting legend’s contribution over more than 70 years.

By JOHN DOOLEY

FOLLOWING a unanimous decision by Mildura Rural City Council in November last year to rename the Mildura City Oval in honour of Sunraysia sporting legend Brian Weightman, the official unveiling has taken place.

The event was attended by representatives of Sunraysia’s sporting fraternity and friends and family, who turned out in large numbers to honour a great man they call ‘Reg’.

The word legend is not something bandied around lightly and in the case of Brian Reginald Weightman 88, it is the quintessential description of a man whose amazing contribution to Sunraysia’s sporting life, spanning more than 70 years, is unprecedented.

Sporting organisations associated with the oval including Mildura East Cricket Club, the Harness Racing Club, Mildura and South Mildura Football Netball Clubs, Imperials Football Netball Club, Sunraysia Cricket Association and Sunraysia Football Netball League were on hand to witness the historic moment, with the guest of honour sitting front and centre for the ceremony with his daughter Lynne by his side.

Past president of the Imperials Football Club, Peter O’Donnell, who was the MC for the day’s proceedings said the support to rename the oval was backed by everyone involved.

“The support for this name change was 110 percent backed by everyone involved. I think that is because it was so obvious that is was well deserving and it was so overdue,” he said.

Mildura Mayor Simon Clemence said that the renaming of the oval was a wonderful thing for both the Weightman family and the community as a whole.

“It’s a great honour for the Weightman family, but it’s also a great thing for the community and the people of Mildura,” he said. “It’s not very often that you get to nominate one of your own for a name change like this while they are still living. Generally the Government rules are that people must have passed – we have broken those rules today, and we are proud that because we want to see Brian recognised and we wanted him to see that as well.”

Mr Weightman has had connections with Mildura Recreational Reserve, Number One Oval in particular, for more than 71 years, Cr Clemence said.

“He began as a footballer with the Imperials Football Club from 1948 to 1967, a cricketer with Mildura East Cricket Club from 1948 to 1982, and it was after his football playing days ended, that Mr Weightman had a much greater involvement in the activities of the Mildura recreational reserve.”

Mr Clemence highlighted the fact that Mr Weightman had coached and mentored junior football and cricket almost every weekend until 1997, and was still team manager of the Sunraysia under 15’s football team up until 2012, at the age of 80.

“He was a curator of all three turf wickets at the reserve from 1990 for more than 20 years and was well into his seventies when he finished that role,” he said. “He has been recognised with life membership for the Sunraysia Football Club Sunraysia Cricket Association, Imperials Football Netball Club, Mildura East Cricket Club and the Sunraysia Junior Football League for his lifetime of service and special contribution.

“This man devoted more than 71 years of his life in the service of this community, particularly the sporting community, and particularly at this oval,where his football club has its home – I couldn’t think of a better more deserving man. The family has every right to very proud of Reg, there really isn’t much that he hasn’t done.”

Chris Sharman, president of Imperials Football Netball Club, spoke of Mr Weightman’s legacy to Imperials.

“It speaks for itself. It started back in 1948, he played 267 games, six best and fairest, four premierships and he was five times a runner up for the McLeod Medal – a bit harsh there weren’t they Brian?” Mr Sharman said.

At which point Mr Weightman added: “The reason for that was because I spoke to the umpires too much”, which drew laughter from the gathered crowd.

“On a personal level, Brian has coached three generations of Sharmans. He coached my Dad, my brother and myself, and so he has touched the three generations of us and so we are pretty chuffed that this honour has been bestowed on you,” Mr Sharman said.

“It’s a testament to you, have a look at all the people who are here today, and your family travelling all this way to be here with you as well. You are still a part of this club. Before last year’s grand final, Brian said a few words to the troops who were heading out onto the field, and it nearly brought a tear to all of their eyes.”

Mildura sporting commentator Bill Sauer echoed the comments of so many others, saying that the renaming of the oval couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person.

“Brian has had a lifetime of sporting contribution in Sunraysia and he’s a bit like that thread that runs through my own sporting life and that of so many others from when we were kids and Brian was a great coach in junior footy and went on to do everything really. He was a great cricketer of course – a lover of sports of all sorts and he sired a pretty good progeny as well!”

There was no shortage of great memories and anecdotes shared by other speakers, including Mr Weightman’s son and former Richmond football star, Dale Weightman, who recalled growing up with his father coaching him and his siblings.

“He coached all of us, and one thing about Reg, there was no false praise – we got nothing off him,” Dale said. “One thing we got used to was that if he didn’t say anything to you after a game of cricket or footy or whatever, we must have played alright!”

The guest of honour said it had come as a great surprise when it was announced that the oval’s name would be changed to recognise him.

“I was surprised, but then I did spend a few years on the oval here, fifty odd years playing footy and cricket and coaching kids and ended up being the curator here for 12 years,” Mr Weightman said.

“It’s a bit overwhelming, but I am very pleased and greatly honoured.”

The always humble Mr Weightman had a chuckle when it was put to him that he had achieved legend status in Sunraysia. “Well I’ve been around for a while” was all he said.