Our nickname together was ‘Team Jaffa’. Pete was the hard, crispy no-nonsense red shell and I was the smooth chocolate inside.
When he and I joined the Panthers together in 2014, we instantly gravitated towards one another. Not because we played in the halves together but because we both wanted to do something special at Penrith, to solidify our small place in the game.
As soon as we stepped out onto the old training paddock at Panthers Stadium, I noticed straight away that Wal was an instant leader. He was always the toughest guy pound for pound and to be able to bounce back from numerous injuries, including several ACLs, proves you can never question his want and desire.
Hearing Wal played the last two years without an ACL after his last reconstruction failed is pretty courageous stuff. It’s a real insight into how much this game means to these players.
Fans wouldn’t be as quick to criticise someone when they know how much they’ve sacrificed each week to play for their club. To play busted for so long is an amazing effort from someone who typified what it truly means to be a Panther.
With the news of his retirement this week, I also wanted to share some of the off-field moments that made Peter Wallace so special in my eyes.
While Wal loves his wife and kids very much, he was always willing to lend a helping hand. I remember him popping over to my new place when I first moved here to make sure my lawn mower was built, so I could use it.
In 2015, when I was going through some personal issues, I remember he and then Panthers coach Ivan Cleary coming over to my house to watch the State of Origin with me.
It really meant a lot to me that he took time out of his family life to make sure that I was OK.
Wal and I were also amazing card players. On many bus trips to and from games, we’d partner up and win a lot of money against some of the young boys playing euchre.
Team Jaffa reigned supreme on the bus, don’t worry about that!
As to where Wal will end up next – coaching seems to be the logical option.
He’ll be a fantastic coach one day, if that what he chooses to do. One thing I discovered when I retired is that you have to do something that you’re passionate about, that makes you want to get out of bed each day.
Wal and I always joked that he’d be the coach one day and I’d be the runner. He could see things more and I could get run out there and yell.
If you’re reading this Wal, the offer is still there… I’m available!