Wallis a better Bulldog after tough year

Mitch Wallis is happy he decided to stay with the Western Bulldogs and not move in free agency.
Mitch Wallis is happy he decided to stay with the Western Bulldogs and not move in free agency.

All Mitch Wallis ever wanted was to feel wanted.

There were times during a turbulent 2018 season for him and the Western Bulldogs when he wasn't certain that was the case.

Wallis didn't earn a spot in the AFL side until round three and was dropped after a round nine loss to Adelaide.

He openly admits he did his due diligence in exploring his free agency options.

But ultimately his family ties to the club where his dad Steve played 261 games proved too strong.

And the Dogs showed how much they wanted him to stay when they agreed terms on a new three-year deal at the end of a disappointing campaign.

"It was a year of challenges but a massive year of growth too," Wallis told AAP.

"I think I learned a lot about myself and the football club as we went through that year.

"I think the biggest thing is that you want to feel wanted at the club and that there is a place there for you.

"That developed over the course of the year.

"Then there are the family ties ... there were a lot of different elements that came into my decision making.

"You've got to understand what are the pulls and what are the pushes.

"We explored it all and had many conversations with family members, teammates and coaches and was really happy with where we came up."

Wallis is feeling good about football and life in general.

He got married in the off-season, believes his ninth AFL pre-season has been his best yet and is now a part of the leadership group.

Having copped a few bruises during a tough year, including stinging criticism for a costly late mistake in a heartbreaking loss to North Melbourne, the 26-year-old is ready for whatever the season throws at him.

"I was ready to cop the criticism. ... that's what you sign up for," Wallis said of the fallout from the two-point round 14 loss to the Roos.

"But I think the best part of footy is that you get to back it up and go again in a week's time. You get a chance to prove the critics wrong.

"The following week we beat Geelong by a narrow margin and that was one of the highlights of our year.

"There are heaps of highs and lows in footy but they're very close together.

"I think you've just got to try to remember the highs more than the lows."

Australian Associated Press