After two broken legs in two years, Murray Bushrangers 19-year-old Isaac Wallace has finally found some continuity in his football in 2017.
The tough and competitive 178cm midfielder played 21 games for the Bushrangers across 2015 and 2016 as injury wiped out the first half of his bottom-age season and a significant chunk of his top-age campaign.
He returned to appear in Murray’s run to last year’s TAC Cup Grand Final despite being – in his words – “really unfit”, but has been able to play almost every week this season with either the third-placed Bushrangers or Peter Jackson VFL clubs Collingwood and Williamstown.
Wallace is averaging 19 disposals and six tackles per game in 11 TAC Cup matches in 2017, while he ran out for the VFL Magpies when they faced Werribee in Wangaratta in May and twice for the Seagulls recently in the Development League.
The Wodonga Bulldogs (Ovens & Murray FL) product said he had come through his double injury ordeal a changed person.
“It taught me a lot of patience,” Wallace said earlier this year. “I couldn’t do any running for ages and just lost all my fitness.
“The first one (broken leg) happened in the very first practice match of 2015. I just had my foot flat on the ground, twisted as I was trying to tackle someone and it cracked right at the bottom of my tibia. I wasn’t too upset though; it got hard at times but I thought: ‘It’s just a broken leg, hey?’
“The second one (in Round 5, 2016) hurt a bit more because it was my top-age year and I was in some of the best form I’ve been in all my life. I got pushed back and rolled my ankle inwards, and my whole knee went inwards too and just made a big crunch. I wouldn’t recommend it!”
After completing his rehabilitation a little more diligently than the year prior, Wallace returned to Murray’s line-up in Round 14 last season but felt as though he was “trying to catch up to everyone”.
When the Bushrangers lost to the Sandringham Dragons by 17 points in the 2016 decider at Etihad Stadium, Wallace’s five-disposal and five-tackle performance indicated his efforts to return to the field had taken their toll.
“The Grand Final was probably the worst game I’ve ever played in my life,” he said.
“The two finals before that were alright (13 disposals and five tackles against both Dandenong in a qualifying final and Oakleigh in a preliminary final); I was just trying to do right by the team and mainly playing more with my voice, just leading out on the ground and doing what I could physically.
“This year I want to get a bit better at running and try to play as many different positions as I can to the best of my ability. I’d really like to get picked up (by an AFL club), but I also just want to make a real impact in the TAC Cup and show them what they missed out on last year.”