If a week is a long time in football, then the past seven days have been a long time in Mitch Wallis’ life.
The morning after the Western Bulldogs silenced Greater Western Sydney at Marvel Stadium, Wallis and his wife Emily headed to Frances Perry Private Hospital in Parkville for a life changing weekend.
With so much unknown around this season due to the coronavirus pandemic, the couple booked a labour induction as soon as the return fixture was released late last month.
It meant less than 48 hours after the Dogs outplayed last year’s grand finalists by 24 points, the Wallis’ welcomed their first child, Charlotte, into the world last Sunday night.
Four days later, Wallis boarded a chartered flight from Tullamarine with the rest of his teammates bound for Sydney, where Luke Beveridge’s men banked another inspirational win, beating the Swans by 28 points at the SCG to level the ledger at 2-2.
In the space of six days, the Western Bulldogs have reignited a season that looked gloomy after a disappointing performance against St Kilda in Round 2 – following a disastrous start to the season against Collingwood – and the Wallis family has expanded.
“We were obviously down in the doldrums after our round two performance, so juggling that with the baby coming and knowing we had GWS, there was a fair bit on my plate. But the past week has been truly amazing,” Wallis told westernbulldogs.com.au.
“It puts life into perspective. For the first time in your life there is something greater than yourself and your partner. Everything you now do you’re doing to provide the best possible life for your daughter and our family.
“I’ve really enjoyed that intrinsic motivation to do everything for your family. I know she is only four days old, but every time I look at her I just want to provide the best life for her.
“We’ve really enjoyed the last two wins. It was 12 weeks since round one and a win was what we were all longing for. To do it in the fashion we’ve done it has been sensational. And then starting a family, life is pretty good at the moment.”
When the 2020 season was suspended for three months at the conclusion of round one, Wallis and his wife packed up their house in Albert Park and relocated an hour north of Melbourne to the family farm in Tallarook.
The couple spent most of the shutdown period living with Mitch’s parents Sue and Steve – the Footscray great who played 261 games in the red, white and blue and captained the club – during a period that coincided with the final trimester of Emily’s pregnancy.
“We went into full lockdown down the farm and spent time with our family. It was a really special time for Emily and I to spend time together. We had never spent that much time consistently together and we got to prepare for what was coming with baby Charlotte. As much as it was a bad situation, I loved being able to spend quality time with Emily and the family,” he said.
“I was very fortunate to have my brother as a training partner. I know some blokes have spoken about struggling with the motivation to train by yourself, especially with so much unknown around. To have someone as a kicking partner and to push you with your running made a hell of a difference.
“We got into a good routine of getting up and getting that done early then doing some farm work. We dug a few holes, planted trees, ripped down some fencing and stuff like that. It was a silver lining during a difficult time.”
The new normal is a phrase the world is still wrapping its head around. It is particularly pertinent for Wallis, who completes this interview while Charlotte sleeps on his chest.
The Western Bulldogs returned to Melbourne on Friday afternoon full of belief, ready to roll up their sleeves and continue a mid-year renaissance.
“As much as there was a lot of outside noise turning on us after the performances we dished up, there was still so much belief. We did a lot of work internally in the lead up game to GWS,” he said.
“I think it was timely that they were the opponent we were playing because of the history between us. Our application to the contest and effort improvement improved dramatically. We are still sitting at 2-2 with a hell of lot of work to do, but we have reignited our 2020 campaign, which I knew we were always going to do.”
And it might not be too long before Western Bulldogs supporters start crossing their fingers, hoping Charlotte Wallis follows in the footsteps of her famous father and grandfather.