IN-FORM free agent Mitch Wallis believes he's proven himself as a best-22 player at the Western Bulldogs and hopes "the faith is repaid" by the club in contract negotiations.
After a slow start to the season that saw him spend time in the VFL, Wallis' quest for a new deal has gained momentum since the mid-season bye, with the 25-year-old averaging 21 possessions and slotting 12 goals, switching between midfield and half-forward.
It's a role the life-long midfielder is starting to excel at, to the point where Champion Data rates Wallis 'elite' this season in contested possessions (11 per game) and goals (17 goals at 1.2 per game), while being 'above average' in disposals (21.1), tackles (4.1), pressure acts (18.7) and goal assists (1.1).
He has also finally found "comfortability" in the left leg he badly broke in round 18, 2016. The injury saw the father-son recruit miss the club's 62-year premiership drought.
While he admits a new deal is unlikely to be struck until season's end, Wallis told AFL.com.au he's showing the form he always knew he was capable of.
"It was a challenging start to the year to get my body right and hit consistent form, but since the bye I've been able to pull together some consistent footy, and hitting the scoreboard, which I've also felt has been a part of my game," Wallis said.
"It's been a 50-50 split between midfield and time forward, but as you get older you learn to influence games for longer and more effectively, so I feel I've got a handle on that.
"(My contract) is probably going to be put off until the end of the year, and I'm going to be optimistic about it, but we'll just have to wait and see how it plays out.
"Hopefully I've shown the value of myself and the faith is repaid come the end of the year."
Coach Luke Beveridge called on Wallis to add a "qualitative sheen" to his game after being sent back to Foostcray in early June, and while he didn't agree with the demotion, the playmaker feels he's answered the challenge.
Wallis had a career kicking efficiency of 58 per cent before round 13, but his "purple patch" of form has coincided with him hitting the target 64 per cent of the time.
"There was a real turning point in the middle of the year when I was disappointed to be out of the side, and whether that was warranted, in my head it probably wasn't," Wallis said.
"Coming back into the side I had a lot to prove to myself and my teammates that I deserved to be there, and it hasn't been the main driver, but it's been a big driver in getting back and being in the best 22 players.
"I've had some good numbers and I think my effectiveness with my disposal, playing forward, hitting the scoreboard and being involved in scoring chains has really risen.
"I feel like I am being a lot more effective, I'm kicking the ball as far as I ever have and as far as my skills, I feel like I've improved dramatically.
"'Bevo' put it on from me that point of view, and I hope I have (proven myself)."
Asked if his relationship with Beveridge had become strained, Wallis said the two haven't let emotion affect the strong bond they share.
"Bevo and I have always been close from the moment he came to the club, and he's known my family for a while, but it's also a player-coach relationship at times," Wallis said.
"He has to be the coach, and you have to put your off-field relationship for the benefit of the club, but it has never ever been strained.
"We'll sit down over the next month or so and review the year and where he sees me going forward, but at the moment there's no problem with (our relationship)."
With only four games left in the Dogs' disappointing season, Wallis concedes a future without Whitten Oval had crossed his mind, but he holds out hope that he'll remain at the club his father Steve captained and played 261 games for.
"I've thought about that, and I don't want to say 'D-Day', but it's coming and coming soon, so I'll cross that bridge when I have to," Wallis said.
"I'll never lose sight of that fact this is where I've grown up, supported my whole life and the team that I love.
"I'm a passionate supporter of the club, as much as a passionate player, so hopefully everything can be resolved."