Timely return for Peter Wallace
Penrith hooker Peter Wallace is keen to make up for lost time when he returns to the paddock against the Gold Coast Titans after spending the past nine weeks sidelined with a groin injury.
It was a heartbreaking time for the 31-year-old who tore the muscle against Newcastle just 24 hours before NSW coach Laurie Daley was expected to name his side for Origin I back in May.
By all accounts Wallace was set to be named ahead of now incumbent No.9 Nathan Peats, who the veteran rake will lock horns with on Saturday.
The return of Wallace is a timely one for the Panthers after they lost Trent Merrin earlier in the week with a knee injury.
"It was a couple of weeks longer than I expected trying to get back but it was a pretty bad in the end, I actually tore it the whole way through," Wallace told NRL.com.
"How I hurt it was just a freak accident that will probably never happen again. I've done everything I've had to do in rehab and Tuesday was my first full day in training. It's been a long process but we're confident it will be fine."
Wallace admitted it took him a while to overcome the initial news he would miss a potential State of Origin recall – eight years since he last represented the Blues back in 2009.
The drive to get back on the paddock this season is now motivating the veteran to help lift the Panthers into back-to-back finals appearances for the first time since 2004 after reaching the semi-finals last year.
"It was tough to swallow at the time but that's footy I suppose and I had to move on pretty quick, after Game One I came to terms with it," he said.
"I thought overall it was a really good series and whoever turned up on the night was going to win, that was all that was going to split them. Queensland managed to do that.
"While the NSW boys didn't get the job done, they should be all proud of their efforts because I didn't think there was much between the two sides at all."
Penrith have a reasonable draw in their favour for the run home with five of their last seven at Pepper Stadium - including the next month of football at the foot of the mountains.
Anthony Griffin's men were dubbed premiership favourites at the beginning of the season, a tag that did not sit well with the side and saw them drop seven of their opening nine games of the season before a mid-season surge.
St George Illawarra looms as the team on the slide in the top eight, but Wallace insisted now wasn't the time to ladder watch.
"There is a fair bit of footy left so if you start focusing too much on that it puts extra pressure on what we don't need," Wallace said.
"We have played away a fair bit of late so there is a good period coming up for us and the boys have done a great job over the past six weeks so I am looking forward to get back out there with them.
"That's what you miss the most when you're trying to get the body fit away from training in rehab."