Wallace out for a season
By MITCHELL DALE
SAWTELL Panthers hopes of a breakthrough Group 2 premiership have suffered a crippling blow, with inspirational captain-coach Craig Wallace ruled out for the rest of the season.
Wallace snapped the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee five minutes into the Panthers' round two clash against Macksville on April 17.
The former NSW Country prop been hopeful the injury would only keep him out for eight weeks, but a Gold Coast surgeon delivered the worst possible news on Thursday afternoon.
A shattered Wallace is booked in for surgery on May 18, although he still holds a faint glimmer of hope he can return in September.
"I will be giving myself every chance to get back on the field, but the chances are slim," Wallace says.
"If I get back, it won't be until the grand final."
Wallace broke the news to his players on Thursday night, but instead of being downcast, the mood at Rex Hardaker remains up-beat.
"No one's heads went down, we have to turn this into a positive," Wallace says.
"There are plenty of blokes in the side capable of stepping up, everyone just has to lift 10 per cent.
"If they do that, we'll be fine... there is no reason at all why we can't still win the premiership."
Wallace kicked-off his footy career as a four-year-old and remained relatively injury-free over the next 29 years.
Yesterday, he was still struggling to come to grips with the situation.
Since sustaining the injury, Wallace has still been able to run, cycle and lift weights, but that only gave him false hope.
"The thing is I can still run in a straight line, but the surgeon said as soon as I step or get hit from the side, she'll buckle," he said.
It is a bitter blow for Wallace, who worked over-time in the off-season to add more bulk to his already sizeable frame.