Willsmore still a Kangaroo at heart

A GOOD kid from good stock. It’s a simple, understated and yet accurate description of North Ballarat Rebels star Dallas Willsmore, writes David O'Neill.

The 18-year-old, son of Walpeup-Underbool royalty, is like countless other young footballers around the country at present, nervously counting the days to the 2013 NAB AFL Draft.

And, like so many of them, Willsmore has been preparing for the day since his early teens.

It’s been an eventful five years since a skinny but highly skilled 13-year-old first played senior football for the Kangaroos in the Mallee league, alongside his father – a 348-game legend of the club.

Just a year later, the tough decision was made to relocate to Ballarat’s St Patrick’s College, a 4 ½ hour drive from the tight knit farming community of Underbool.

Dad Andrew and mum Tanya have made their share of trips over the past few years, including earlier this month to see their son captain St Pats to victory in the Herald Sun Shield Grand Final at the MCG.

But hitting the road isn’t always easy for the pair, as they still play themselves.

Andrew, 45, may have retired a few times but shrugged off a broken ankle to play his 400th club game for the Roos in their 2012 reserves premiership victory.

Tanya, a winner of several league and club best-and-fairest trophies, also still holds court as goal shooter in Kangaroos’ A-grade netball side, playing alongside daughter and goal attack Tayla.

“The trip home from footy is always pretty interesting with those two,” Andrew said with a laugh.

“We still love being involved and there is just something about country football clubs, if you could bottle it, you’d be laughing.”

“If you ever wanted to rob someone then Saturday afternoon is when you’d do it. There are about 150 people in Underbool and about 250 in Walpeup, and most of them would be at the footy.”

The Willsmores, like so many others in the region, are still battling to overcome the horrific light plane crash that claimed the lives of much loved local characters Scott Munro and Tim Vallance in February.

“Scott was my brother-in-law and my best mate and it’s something you never really get over but just have to live with it,” Andrew said.

“When something like that happens the whole community just pulls together and I don’t know what you’d do without it.”

While a second consecutive Mallee league premiership would be a boost to everyone involved with the Kangaroos, so too would hearing Dallas’ name called out on draft day in November.

A member of the AFL AIS Academy, the 190cm mobile forward has had his injury worries this season and is no certainty to be selected. But after impressive form with Vic Country at the U18 National Championships, AFL scouts are keeping a close eye on the boy from the Mallee.

“We’ll have the big screen set up somewhere and if he goes I might have to put on beers for the whole town,” Andrew said.

“We’ve told Dallas that there is no shame in not getting drafted and that as long as you can go to bed on draft night knowing you’ve done everything you could possibly do, then you can sleep pretty easy.”


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