OUT OF favour at times last season, Mitch Wallis says his outstanding finish to last year was the catalyst to being named in the Western Bulldogs' leadership group.
Out of contract until after the Dogs' 2018 campaign concluded, there was persistent speculation the father-son recruit was headed out of Whitten Oval, with Brisbane and Essendon reported to be very interested suitors.
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However, the 26-year-old got his wish to remain at the club he has barracked for since birth, signing a three-year deal in September.
Now selected by his teammates to be an official leader, Wallis says the confidence he gained from the honour and his strong finish to last season has him primed to grow his game further in 2019.
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"I wouldn't go as far to say (I was looking for) the exit, but there was a little bit of speculation last year," Wallis told reporters on Tuesday.
"I'm a true Bulldog at heart, and the (contract situation) was about working through until the end of the year.
"I needed to get the confidence back in my own ability, which I thought I did towards the end of the year.
"I'm very honoured to be a part of the leadership group, but the hard work starts now and putting those words into action, having a good start to the year and carrying that through."
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The reason Wallis had two spells in the VFL last year was that he wasn't meeting coach Luke Beveridge's versatility mantra, but the inside midfielder did expand his game by becoming a damaging half-forward by season's end.
Returning from a month-long stint with for the round 13 clash with Port Adelaide, he didn't look back, retaining his spot by kicking 15 goals and applying fierce forward pressure.
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"The team needed a half-forward and I was happy to put my hand up," Wallis said.
"'Bevo' (Beveridge) loves dual-role players, so to have that string to your bow is very important, and the (draftees) coming in will have to have that too."
Wallis knows the pressure associated with your father being a champion of the club, so he's been keeping an eye on the Dogs' latest father-son recruit, Rhylee West.
Fathers Stephen Wallis and Scott West's storied careers overlapped at the Kennel, and Mitch Wallis expects to be playing a lot of footy with the confident son of a gun.
"He's a cheeky bugger, and not shy," Wallis joked.
"In your first pre-season (it) is all about keeping your head down and your bum up and doing everything right and earning the respect of your teammates and coaches, but he's a star.
"We've seen some highlights (and) he's made of the right stuff, so I'm sure he'll get his opportunity and take it with both hands.
"I can't wait to play with him because I've been lucky enough to see him grow up with my family quite close with the Wests.
"He's made of the right stuff – he's going to be a good player."