Panther pride in the Maroon pack
WHEN rugby league's greatest battle continues on Wednesday night there'll be a Group 2 connection on the field.
Although born and raised on the Gold Coast which qualifies him to play for Queensland in State of Origin, Jarrod Wallace made his initial foray into first grade football when he was a teenager playing at Sawtell.
Then only 16, Wallace took to the field alongside his hard nosed father, Craig, who was the captain-coach of an injury hit Panthers unit in a local derby against Coffs Harbour.
Jarrod recalls an apprenticeship at Rex Hardaker Oval that included training with his junior Panthers team before joining in with the first grade players.
"I used to train with my side and then when he (Dad) would be training at 6.30 with first grade I'd go and train with them as well," Jarrod said.
"When they were doing captain's run I'd be the fullback for the other team and catch the ball and run it back at them."
A decade on, Jarrod said he's not feeling any nerves at the moment ahead of his Origin debut at ANZ Stadium.
"I reckon probably when we get down to Sydney and get to the park on Wednesday I think they'll really kick in," he said.
"At the moment I'm just trying to stay relaxed, I don't want to play the game before I've played so if I can do that I'll be right."
The prop forward is one of four Queenslanders picked to play their first game for the Maroons.
Tim Glasby, Coen Hess, Valentine Holmes will join the 25 year-old and wallace admits he's happy to be sharing such a special moment in his career with the trio.
"I was in emerging camp with all three of the other boys, they're really good guys," he said.
"It's exciting for me and it's exciting for them and their families as well."
With long-serving Queensland forwards Nate Myles, Sam Thaiday, Aidan Guerra and Jacob Lillyman omitted from the team for Origin II, there's a suggestion there'll be a leadership void among the forwards.
When asked if he'll take it upon himself to be a leader in the pack, Wallace admitted he can't see it happening on Wednesday night.
"I reckon I'll be blowing a bit, I don't know how much chat will be coming out of my mouth," he said.
"I'll try and get out there and do my job and guys like Cam Smith and Cooper (Cronk) they'll lead us around and tell us where to get to and when they want us there."