In praise of Wally Junior

Following a football-team is supposed to be fun. Even Footscray with its more downs than ups over the years has been mainly fun and the Club gives supporters like me a sense of belonging.

 

But all that fun came to an abrupt halt on Saturday night.

 

I felt like I could not write any more match reports when Mitch Wallis broke his leg. It wasn’t a case of giving up on the team because three of our key players were injured. It was more a feeling of helplessness watching young Wally carried off and then hearing later he was screaming in agony in the change-rooms. If I do write a match report, I try and keep it fairly light even if the Bulldogs lose. I don’t do ‘serious’ very well, so after the events of Saturday night, I couldn’t see myself writing anything for a long time. I felt gutted like every other supporter.

 

It was more like a death in the family on Saturday. Even more so when they took so long to load Wally into the ambulance and his team-mates began to enter the change-rooms, filing past Wally who was still on the cart. The cameras are everywhere these days and as I watched that horrible scene later, it reminded me of a viewing at a funeral

 

So why I am I so concerned with the welfare of this particular player? Because he one of the good guys. The heart and soul of the Club and certainly a future captain. I think it was ex-Bulldog Lindsay Gilbee talking on ABC radio about Mitch Wallis’s love of the Club and how he is desperate to be part of that second premiership. Something his father Steve couldn’t achieve in his 261 games for the Dogs between 1983 and 1996.

 

Without knowing some players personally, you just know by their conduct on the field and even after a brief interview, that they are from good stock.  Such is the case with Mitch Wallis and Tom Liberatore. The sons of Steve and Tony are loyal and dedicated. A Club like the Western Bulldogs need these young men of good character when their Club’s worth and status is measured by the quality of personnel involved rather than the number of premierships cups on display.

 

Mitch doesn’t have to look much further than his own father to get advice on rehabilitation after his injuries. Martin Flanagan spent the 1993 season with the Bulldogs and outlined Steve Wallis’s injuries and his ability to overcome them through strength of character. In his book ‘ Southern Sky, Western Oval ‘, Martin listed the extent of Steve’s injuries over his then 200 game career and his dedication to the Footscray Football Club:

 

“ He had played 200 games for Footscray and, in the process, broken a leg (1982) and a wrist (1991), snapped a cruciate ligament (1987), acquired four stress fractures in his back and torn the medial ligament in his left knee (1993)…because of the damage he had done to his knees through playing league football, both legs would have to be broken and reset when he finished to save him from acute arthritis. Wally said there was a transition from being a social footballer ‘ to being fair dinkum about your sport, to be coming a man in your football’. Wally was fair dinkum about his football.”  

 

Three days have passed since that terrible night at Etihad and the gloomy fog is starting to lift, just like it does eventually after a bad loss. The picture of Mitch from his hospital bed giving a thumbs up was the main reason the gloom has lifted slightly. For someone who said he wouldn’t be writing reports for a while, I have found writing these couple of pages therapeutic as well as reading the  messages to Wally from other Bulldog supporters. And thank God for the Almanac to be able to share thoughts when things are grim, especially for me being 200ks from the Bulldog heartland.

 

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About Neil Anderson

Enjoys reading and writing about the Western Bulldogs. Instead of wondering if the second premiership will ever happen, he can now bask in the glory of the 2016 win.

Comments

  1. Yvette Wroby says:

    Dear Neil,

    I am glad you wrote, it’s so therapeutic for you and the rest of us. What a shattering night for the Dogs and young Wallis. I went to the Dog’s website yesterday to hear how he was, and was greatly heartened by your coach and his character, as with all your team and supporters. Your boys will be back, they are made of the champion stuff and I wish you well and for many joyous moments as a Bulldogs supporter.

  2. I often question why supporters bandy about the label “Soft” when referring to certain AFL players. Or the old-timers who claim that today’s game is nowhere near as tough as in days of yore. This game is tough and brutal and incidents like Mitch’s bring this into sharp focus.
    Let me be clear: every player who crosses that line onto an AFL venue has made extraordinary sacrifices to reach that level. And that level is no place for the feint of heart.
    Here’s to Mitch Wallis’ 100% recovery.

  3. Luke Reynolds says:

    Terrible to see such a shocking injury for the highly talented Wallis. Hopefully he returns in good time just as good.

    What a fantastic, underrated (though I’m sure not by Bulldogs fans) player Steve Wallis was.

  4. Neil Anderson says:

    Thanks Yvette.
    I am having one of my rare Friday night’s out (during the football season) so I will be watching a replay later that night of the Geelong/ Bulldogs game.
    Up until now I have been thinking it is a good thing that I won’t be watching direct because the pain of last Saturday is still raw. Geelong is not a happy hunting- ground for the Dogs.
    But in reality I’m sure I will burst out of that theatre and slam on the car radio for the scores. I just want to know that the rest of the team is OK, win lose or draw.
    Thanks Smokie.
    I have been reading two football biographies recently, of Chris Judd and Mathew Lloyd. I’m always interested in their opinions on such things as the hardest opponent and best coaches etc. But your point about the sacrifices they make to play at the top level is the thing they have in common. Until I read more about Steve Wallis I had no idea what he endured playing for the Bulldogs.
    Yes Luke, Steve was a champion player and a champion bloke and he’s passed those qualities onto his son.

  5. jan courtin says:

    Interestingly, Neil, you were the first person I thought of after your loss last weekend. And the first thought, apart from the terrible injuries, was whether you would want or be able to write something. Not taking the injuries into account, after a loss – especially by a small margin – I often think to myself “There’s no way I’m going to write a report – I don’t want to write a report!”. But, when I get home from the match, I really do find it therapeutic to do so. So, like Yvette, I’m very pleased you have.

    Unfortunately (or otherwise) with today’s media “in your face” at all times, the shots of Mitch in the rooms in agony triggers extreme emotional responses in all of us, making such terrible injuries almost worse than they already are. Like our Gary Rohan when he badly broke his leg and was out for over 12 months, Mitch will be back. Let’s hope the team can cope with your injury list. Good luck

  6. Neil Anderson says:

    Thank you for thinking of me Jan.
    If there was big news coming out of Sydney I would be thinking of you. Such is the power and reach of the Almanac,, we naturally think of the usual diehard supporters from the Club involved in the drama.
    I have taken an interest in Gary Rohan’s career because he comes from nearby Cobden and lived ‘just down the road’ from our stand- in skipper Easton Wood in Camperdown.
    I probably will write something after tomorrow night’s match, hopefully if they can get through the match unscathed and I can uncross my fingers to use the key-board.

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