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All smiles in Wallace homecoming

Matt Encarnacion NRL.com Fri, Dec 27, 2013 - 10:00 AM

Peter Wallace returns to the club he played 20 games for between 2005 and 2007. Copyright: NRL Photos

Of the abundance of rugby league talent Panthers GM Phil Gould has lured to Penrith for the coming season, a single distinction separates one player from the rest. 

Here's a hint: he's the only one home-grown. 

That interminable fact alone is particularly significant when you consider that the last two locally made players in his position both led the club to its only two premierships. 

Not including Gould's latest experiment - newly signed Papua New Guinean international Wellington Albert, who's been likened to a young Petero Civoniceva - at least nine new players, with more than 700 games' worth of experience between them, have been swayed into joining Gould's rebuilding efforts in Sydney's west. 

But just one can lay claim to being raised there and, while his dramatic exit from Brisbane dragged on until late in the year, his negotiations with the Panthers boss probably lasted the quickest of the lot. 

Asked how he feels about the playmaker-less predicament at the Broncos, Peter Wallace shoots back: "Mate, it's not my problem."

And given the way he was treated last year, a season that he's already described as a "write-off", suffice to say he doesn't really care. 

Having been signed by Wayne Bennett to partner Darren Lockyer in the halves in 2007, Wallace struggled the past few seasons, culminating in being told he was no longer wanted at Red Hill.

Enter Gould and the team Wallace supported as a kid, who were quick to snap up the former Panther, particularly given the pastings they'd received for shedding local juniors Luke Lewis and Michael Jennings.

The improvements on and off the field that followed those two dramatic exits, however, have begun to take shape after an encouraging 2013 campaign. And they were exactly the kind of signs that prompted Wallace to return home. 

"There were a couple of clubs in it, but to be honest, Penrith just felt like the right fit for me," Wallace told NRL.com. 

"Having talked to Ivan [Cleary] and Gus [Gould], they were really good to deal with. It's good to see a pretty bright future for the players. It's exciting times for the club and the town itself."

It's been over a decade since halfback Craig Gower famously led the Panthers to their 2003 title, and 22 years since favourite son Greg Alexander, another former No. 7, gave them their first premiership. 

Wallace, who helped Scotland to the World Cup quarter-finals last month, was supposed to be the next in line, having made his debut alongside Gower in 2007. 

But during that year, Gower re-signed with the club on a long-term deal, prompting Wallace to accept an invitation to play alongside one of the best playmakers in the history of the game. 

"When I was a young kid, I pictured myself just playing for Penrith and that was it. I didn't think I was going to leave in the first place," said Wallace, who joined his new team-mates two weeks before Christmas.  

"That's rugby league though, you don't really know what's going to happen in the future. I got the chance to play in Brisbane and I loved my time up there. 

"But in saying that, it's good to come home. I'll go pretty close to finishing my career here. I'm a bit older and a bit wiser now, a bit more experienced. I was only young and had only payed 20-odd games when I left. 

"I've learnt a lot and hopefully I can pass a bit of that onto the kids coming through."

Another major reason for Wallace's return was to be by the side of his mother Diane, who survived a cancer scare last year.  

"She's alright now, but she was crook; she had breast cancer last year," Wallace said. "She got the all-clear during the year, so that's pretty good news. She's doing well at the moment. 

"It's good to be home for her and see a bit more of her here. I only saw her a couple of times a year, but she's just up the road from me now. It was definitely a drawing point."