Temora forward Matt Wallis has come a long way in 12 months

LEADING ROLE: Temora forward Matt Wallis at work this week. Wallis has kicked 23 goals in his four games back from a serious knee injury. Picture: Peter Doherty
LEADING ROLE: Temora forward Matt Wallis at work this week. Wallis has kicked 23 goals in his four games back from a serious knee injury. Picture: Peter Doherty

Matt Wallis was at Robertson Oval for last year’s Farrer League grand final.

He was the sorry sight limping around on the hill with a broken knee cap, unsure of what his future held and whether football would be a part of it.

Twelve months on, he’ll arrive at the same ground in such rich form that you need to double-check the stats to see he really has played just four first grade games in 18 months. And kicked 23 goals.

Wallis on Breust: "He's one of those crafty, clever blokes who reads the play two, three steps ahead before it happens." Picture: Kieren L Tilly

Wallis on Breust: "He's one of those crafty, clever blokes who reads the play two, three steps ahead before it happens." Picture: Kieren L Tilly

The return of Wallis was to be the icing on the cake for Temora – a third tall option alongside the in-form Mark Breust and leading goalkicker Matt Harpley. 

Wallis kicked 10 in his first two games, as the trio shared a staggering 30 goals.

Then, in their first final against North Wagga, he went from sidekick to leading role after Harpley ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament. Wallis kicked nine.

“It just sort of happened,” Wallis said. “When you’ve got the midfield hitting you all day it makes it a lot easier. And I just happened to put the kicking boots on that morning I suppose.”

Still in the early stages of his comeback, Wallis said he’s changed his game, from playing mainly up the ground to learning to play deep. 

“Before, I used to be able to run a lot more and I wasn't really strong,” he said.

“Now, well, I can run but not as much. But I'm a lot stronger so I don't mind the one-on-one contests.

“The fitness is slowly coming back. I don’t really know where it’s at but it’s a grand final so you just run yourself ragged.”

The luxury is that Wallis, 23, won’t be on his own.

Matt Harpley has been named on the bench.

Matt Harpley has been named on the bench.

Harpley will make his shock return on Saturday, despite needing knee surgery. He’ll play a different role but will be an option, along with Breust and skipper Jake Wooden, and more.

“There’s no shortage of blokes who can play the role up forward,” Wallis said. 

“There’s Charlie Vallance as well, Luke Gerhard too – he doesn’t kick that many (with his role) but he’s pretty good by foot. There’s no real reliance on one person… it takes the pressure off.”

Temora coach Jake Wooden kicked four goals against Marrar in the second semi-final.  Picture: Kieren L Tilly

Temora coach Jake Wooden kicked four goals against Marrar in the second semi-final. Picture: Kieren L Tilly

But the pressure is on to take their opportunities. Temore are expecting a fired-up Marrar after the loss two weeks ago.

“Scoreboard pressure is a pretty big thing in a final,” he said.

“If we kick straight to start with, it puts it back on them. If we can get on top that first quarter, hopefully things will start to pan out our way.”

One thing’s for sure – Wallis won’t take his second grand final appearance for granted.

“I went from a playing weight of 96 kilos down to 80 in two weeks,” he said. “I couldn’t get myself out of bed. I didn’t think playing was going to happen again.”