Broncos halves still improving: Wallace
Ahead of what will remarkably be his first game against former club Brisbane since being moved on, Penrith's acting captain Peter Wallace has heaped praise on the opposition playmakers while he himself prepares to again fill the less familiar role of hooker for the Panthers.
Wallace was picked up by Penrith in 2014 after being released by the Broncos to make way for the emergence of Ben Hunt, and in two injury-affected seasons since has yet to face his old club.
But as his side prepares for an important clash against the competition heavyweights in search of their first win of the year, Wallace told NRL.com that the Broncos, ominously, look like they're still in cruise control.
"I've watched their last two games; Anthony Milford looks like he's got even better this year," Wallace said.
"Obviously he's still got that flair and his dangerous running game but he's looked very controlled the first two games, his kicking game's improved a lot, he's taken some smart options with the ball, so he looks even better this year I think."
The Broncos are the form side of the competition – even despite the mountain of points racked up by the Bunnies in their two opening games – and deserve their position as co-ladder leaders, according to Wallace.
"The last couple of games they've done it pretty easy. The last 10-15 minutes they've just been in cruise control and they look very controlled, their defence is rock solid so we're going to have to be good to beat them," he said.
Wallace played a bit of hooker in his Broncos days – including one start there in 2013 and a run of games off the bench slotting into dummy half – and said the role isn't an unfamiliar one as coach Anthony Griffin plugs a gap created by a lack of other options.
Rookie Zach Dockar-Clay isn't quite ready to be a starting first grade hooker in Griffin's view while an injury to Sione Katoa means there is a lack of back-up to James Segeyaro (broken wrist) in the short term.
Wallace said he's more than happy to fill the role as required.
"I played a little bit at Brisbane a couple of times. You sort of know how to play it being a half, you get a feel for it and I felt all right [against Canterbury]," he said.
"We just don't really have another option at the moment. Just to get the team running how we need it to it's probably the best option at the moment.
"Zach's very young and probably still learning his trade a little bit and Sione's injured at the moment. If Sione was fit he would have been straight in there but that's the problem we've got. He was rehab running today, he might play reggies this week maybe and might be a chance the week after."
Wallace backed his team to learn from their late loss to the Bulldogs and move past their disappointment.
"We were very disappointed to get beaten like that but all in all there were positive signs; it was a good effort, we just lacked that killer blow but we'll learn from that it was a big improvement from the week before," he said.
"The biggest thing now is we have to back it up this week against the team that probably should have won the comp so it's a big task again this week but that's probably the challenge for us is to perform and to do what we did last week again this week."