Penrith veteran Peter Wallace admits he didn’t know initially how he would play filling in at hooker, but is enjoying the role enough to want to stay there.
The 30-year-old has had a new lease on life deputising for the injured James Segeyaro, providing plenty of vision and spark around the ruck over the Panthers’ past five weeks in the NRL.
But with Segeyaro nearing a return, coach Anthony Griffin faces a big decision on whether to insert the lively rake straight back into the starting line-up or keep with the in-form Wallace.
The former Brisbane playmaker said he was unsure where he might fit once Segeyaro came back, but stressed he wanted to retain a starting spot somewhere in the team.
“When I played in the past, it’s been a bit of an off the bench thing. I didn’t enjoy that. But I’m enjoying the physical side of it (now),” Wallace said.
When Segeyaro first went down, Wallace initially played hooker in attack while defending in his usual place out wide between a second-rower and centre with the bigger Tyrone Peachey in the middle.
But he has since taken his place in the midfield, amassing a remarkable 53 tackles, as well as a line break assist and try assist, in last week’s close loss to North Queensland.
“You never get used to the workload, but it’s getting easier every week,” he said.
“It’s up to Hook what we do there. I’m enjoying my role at the moment. We’ll just see what happens.”
Griffin has a number of options on Segeyaro’s return, including shifting Wallace back to halfback and giving rookie Te Maire Martin a breather in NSW Cup.
Another alternative is Wallace and Segeyaro sharing the role.
“Honestly, whatever’s best for the team, that’s what I’ll do. If Hook wants me to stay there, I’m happy to do that,” Wallace said.
Wallace, a local junior, is off contract at the end of the season but has welcomed his recent spike in form as he looks to shore up his future over coming weeks.
But the one-time NSW State of Origin representative is in no rush to decide.
“It’s good to have different options up your sleeve,” he said.
“I said earlier in the year I wanted to give it a good couple of months before anything takes place. I’m sure my manager’s onto that behind the scenes but, at this stage, I’m not even worrying about any of that.”