NEW NSW assistant coach Danny Buderus has revealed a shock Penrith double-selection which the Blues believe could win next year’s Origin series.
It’s no secret coach Brad Fittler is keen to blood young gun halfback Nathan Cleary into the State of Origin arena, and to help do so he may bring in a Panthers teammate.
That teammate is veteran hooker Peter Wallace.
Wallace was on the verge of a Blues recall this year before injury struck him down, opening the door for Nathan Peats.
But due to his combination with young playmaker Cleary at Penrith, Wallace could yet have his Origin career salvaged.
Buderus revealed to NRL.com Fittler may select 32-year-old Wallace despite a move towards the younger generation of stars.
“Age doesn’t come into it at all,’’ Buderus said.
“It’s all about the way Freddy wants to play. He’s been open about that for the past few weeks, since he’s been given the head role, that he wants to pick the right team to play the right style of play.
“That’s how he’ll do it.’’
Wallace has represented NSW four times in the past, but never at hooker. He hasn’t been seen in the Origin arena for a number of years.
Buderus said the idea was to make young Cleary feel more comfortable in the Blues role and to capitalise on their relationship at club level.
“You look at Cleary and you’d like to bring someone through with him,’’ Buderus said.
“If you can bring a spine through together and they stay consistent, that breeds success.
“That’s the challenge for everyone and has been the challenge for a long time for NSW.
“We’ve identified the positions that need some growth and development and that’s the halves and hookers. So there’s a lot more of those guys there in the Emerging Blues.
“It’s about progressing, taking time, staying patient, keep ticking away and feeding them that Origin mentality and the different ways to play together.”
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… AND WALLACE WANTS PENRITH CAPTAINCY
Before any talk of an Origin recall, Peter Wallace is keen to regain the Penrith captaincy.
Wallace captained the club before it was handed to departed star Matt Moylan in 2016.
With Moylan gone, Wallace looms as the obvious choice for the role but has competition from the likes of Trent Merrin and young forward Isaah Yeo.
“If I get asked to do the job, it would be a huge honour and it’s something I would love to do so,” Wallace told the Nepean News.
“But there haven’t been any discussions as yet and the decision looks like it will be made some time in the new year.”
Wallace is also unsure of his future at the foot of the mountains.
He’s off contract next year and the Panthers have already committed a lot of their salary cap beyond 2018 to the club’s young talents.
But Wallace is in no hurry to sew up his future.
“I’m pretty open-minded. I haven’t spoken to the club about my future at all but I’m in no real rush to make a decision,” Wallace said.
“I’m just getting through pre-season at the moment and then focusing on the start of next year.
“I just want to let things unfold, see how I start the year off next year and make a decision from there, which will be best made for myself and the club.”
KNIGHTS WOES NO BARRIER FOR PEARCE
Mitchell Pearce will prove at Newcastle he’s an elite NRL player without the luxury of a star-studded team, according to Michael Hagan.
Pearce joined the wooden-spooners rather than Manly or Cronulla, ending a successful 11-year stint at the Sydney Roosters last month upon the arrival of superstar halfback Cooper Cronk.
Hagan, who coached Newcastle to the 2001 premiership, believes how well NSW halfback Pearce guides the youthful side could be career-defining.
Pearce will play alongside young-gun backs Kalyn Ponga and Connor Watson, who joined the Knights in the off-season.
“I see him being a really good leader for the Knights,” Hagan told AAP.
“It’s an opportunity to establish himself with a team that hasn’t been as dominant and high-profile as he’s been in for a number of years.
“I think it can be a really telling point in his career thus far.”
Knights coach Nathan Brown has talked up their chances of reaching the finals next year for the first time since 2013.
But speaking at the Jack Newton Celebrity Classic, Hagan was more reserved.
“Mitchell Pearce probably brings a bit of expectation,” he said.
“But they still have got a fair bit of work to do. There’s so little separating team eight and team 16.
“I think the top 5-6 teams are still a fair way ahead of those teams.”