Baby Broncos in good hands with Wallace

IF you ever find yourself sitting across from Allan Langer at a poker table, there are a couple of ‘tells’ to look out for. As Big League sat down with the Queensland legend and Broncos skills coach to ask him why Peter Wallace is no longer on the Blues’ Origin radar, his reaction was too easy to read.

“He’s never mentioned for Origin. But we’re happy to have him at the Broncos,” says Langer, before cracking a smile, looking like he’s let the cat out of the bag.

Anthony Griffin is harder to read and would be fast-tracked to poker champion should he get sick of coaching the Broncos. But he, too, was surprised that the player once earmarked as the guy who could save NSW has never been mentioned again.

“It is surprising they never mention him,” says Griffin, after he watched Wallace tear Cronulla apart last weekend. “He’d certainly do a job for them if they gave him the opportunity. If he keeps progressing he might get another shot there.”

Neither Griffin nor Langer knows why Wallace has fallen out of Origin contention but both men know the Broncos are reaping the rewards, hence Langer’s grin.

“He’s a vital cog in our side,” says Langer, who works with Wallace and Darren Lockyer in the halves. “He’s been very consistent and he’s just a tough player. He’s had a couple of injuries the past few weeks but he’s played with them and he’s getting through the games great.

“He’s always doing extras at training to improve his game and he’s a great team-man. We love working with him.”

Wallace was one of Brisbane’s best against the Sharks and Griffin says he couldn’t be happier with the form of his No.7 this season.

He leads Brisbane in try assists with 11 from 12 games (equal-fourth in the NRL) and plenty more line-break assists to his name.

“He’s coming along, Peter,” says Griffin. “[Against Cronulla] he made two really good passes for tries down that left-hand side and with the kick he put in for Alex Glenn’s try, he’s doing a really good job for us. And he’s a strong defender.

“[The Sharks] marked Locky pretty heavily but then on the other side of the field he came up with two or three really good try assists. We’re really happy with him.”

It goes some way to explaining why Griffin believes there is life after Lockyer at the Broncos. Wallace is only 25 years old and Griffin says he will get better as a player.

“I think he is [still learning]. He’s still relatively young and I think his best football is still in front of him,” he explains.

Wallace seems to have suffered more than anyone from the Blues’ Origin series losses. Brought in for Game One in 2008, he helped lead NSW to an 18-10 series-opening win and was talked about as a long-term No.7 for the Blues. But a lot had changed by the end of Game Two in ’09 – his last game in Origin – and he has hardly been mentioned since.

Two years on as the Blues played the Maroons in front of 55,000 fans in Game One, the night was slightly more subdued for Wallace.

“I just watched it at home on the lounge, mate,” says Wallace. “Just another night… just another Wednesday night for me.”

He’s not fazed at being persona non grata in Origin and is even starting to call Queensland home.

“I’m very happy up here. I’m still loving it and I’m really settled in now,” says Wallace.
And his form alongside Lockyer could be considered evidence of what Wallace could offer NSW if paired with a great five-eighth. But it’s a lot simpler for Wallace, who is enjoying his remaining time playing with one of rugby league’s most famous No.6s.

“It’s awesome. He’d be up there with probably the greatest players ever. It’s a dream come true [to play with him] and I’m going to try to make the most of this last year with him,” Wallace says.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to play [Origin]. But that’s in the past now, I can’t dwell on it or worry about it. I’ve just got to worry about the future.”

That future, for now, seems to rest with the Broncos. But another season of good form could dictate otherwise.