Mitch Wallis looks on during the Western Bulldogs' official team photo day at Whitten Oval on March 3, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

MITCH Wallis knows first-hand just how traumatic road accidents can be. In the first half of his final season in the AFL, his family's world was left shattered by the tragic death of his mother-in-law, just days before his wife gave birth to their second child. 

A week that was scheduled to be packed full of joy and excitement instantly became horrific when Katie Clemmens was hit by a car and passed away three days before her daughter Emily delivered William in late April.

Now more than 12 months on from the accident that drastically altered their lives, the pain hasn't subsided but the former Western Bulldogs favourite son is using the harrowing experience to spread an important message.


The 30-year-old is the ambassador for the fourth annual TAC and AFL Victoria Road Safety Round, which will see thousands of players across country and suburban football and netball leagues wearing blue armbands this weekend to not only honour all the lives impacted by road trauma, but importantly promote road safety. 

After spending his first 12 years out of school calling the Whitten Oval home, where he wore the red, white and blue on 162 occasions, Wallis has returned to play for his alma mater in the Victorian Amateur Football Association and will be wearing a blue armband alongside his younger brother Josh when they represent St Kevin's Old Boys on Saturday. 

"There are many layers to every tragedy and ours is no different to others. We were at a point where we were this family and William's grandmother, my mother-in-law, Emily's mother, was going to be an integral part of William being introduced to the world and the caring for him, especially in the early stages of his development," Wallis told

"For such an incident to occur, you can never explain the trauma and the severity of the tragedy in our eyes. Then to go on and try and pour the energy that we had left into William was such a challenge, but something that we are very proud of the way our family responded to make sure he was brought into a very loving, caring environment, even though we were all hurting and bleeding from the tragedy."

Wallis was forced to deal with plenty of adversity during his time in the AFL. The son of former Footscray captain Steve Wallis missed out on playing a role in the Western Bulldogs' first premiership in 62 years after he suffered a horrific broken leg months before the club went on that fairytale September run.

Things didn't end in the AFL as he would have wished – they rarely do – but Wallis' professional challenges became an afterthought last year following the accident and the need to get on with raising Charlotte and William and supporting his wife and wider family through the unimaginable pain they endured last year.

"I talk about perspective a lot. It is one of those moments in time where you reflect upon what's most important in your life. Footy was a distant memory and distant in terms of importance when you have such a tragedy in your life," Wallis said.

Mitch Wallis hugs Bailey Williams after the R7 match between Western Bulldogs and Essendon at Marvel Stadium on May 1, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"The way we dealt with it was we just poured energy into our son and into our daughter. They deserve to be loved and cared for. It was as much a distraction as a purpose for staying afloat and not falling into that rabbit hole of worrying about anything else but just giving them as much love as we could.

"That was not just Emily and I, but our whole family. William was a coping mechanism for us, someone we just wanted to make sure was surrounded by love. That was the reason why we got through such a horrific period."

North Melbourne interim coach Brett Ratten lost his son Cooper to an accident in 2015 and was the face of TAC and AFL Victoria Road Safety Round last year, while Richmond great Bachar Houli has also been a voice for the cause in the past. 

Now it is Wallis' time to stand up and make a difference, in a year where 165 people have been tragically killed on Victorian roads, which is a 28 per cent increase on the same time last year. More than 1000 clubs around the state will wear the bespoke armband.

"Road safety is important to the whole state and the wider nation. To have conversations about driving safe on the roads is important because we are an example of someone who was the victim of a circumstance," he said.

"The more conversations, the more reminders that you can give your mates, give your family about concentrating on the road, making sure you're in a fit state to drive, the less accidents will occur. 

"The road toll is at really high mark, and one is too many. We all have someone to drive safely for. One is too many. If my story can give context to how much effect a tragedy can have, if it provides a platform for people to reflect and have more conversations, I feel like I'm doing justice to a really poor situation that we experienced."

The Western Bulldogs Football Club and Victoria Police showed up in their droves to show their support at Katie's funeral last year. Now Wallis is showing up to support a cause very close to his heart.