Kangaroos star Trent Merrin has joined the push for Penrith teammate Peter Wallace to be considered for a NSW State of Origin recall at hooker this year.
Wallace’s top-shelf outing in the Panthers’ record 40-0 win over Newcastle on Friday renewed debate over whether Blues coach Laurie Daley should opt for a new face in the No.9 jumper this year.
Merrin backed the former Blues halfback, following a successful transition to hooker that has been vital in Penrith’s transformation into a premiership force.
Merrin, who has played with Beau Scott and Neville Costigan at club level and represented Australia alongside Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston, says Wallace is as resilient as any of them.
“Week in, week out he wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s one of the toughest blokes I’ve played with. He’s played in the halves, he knows how to read the game,” Merrin said.
“I’d definitely put him up into contention for sure, But I’m not the selector so I can only praise him and I can’t praise him enough. He leads this team around, week-in, week-out.
“And he puts his body on the line for an old bloke.”
The Origin debate comes as Daley deliberates whether to persist with vice-captain Robbie Farah following his controversial move to South Sydney.
Gold Coast rake Nathan Peats is widely considered as the next hooker in line for state honours, however he is currently sidelined until round eight.
The Blues team for game one is selected after round 11.
Wallace played the last of his four games for NSW in 2009, and is best remembered for infamously rupturing a testicle in his second match in 2008.
But the 31-year-old has found a lease of life after an unplanned move to hooker at Penrith last season coincided with their charge to the second week of the finals.
Merrin does not believe many players could have managed the switch so effortlessly.
“Not too many halves could make that transition. Just goes to show what sort of character he is. He puts the team first, puts his body on the line every week,” Merrin said.
“I can’t speak highly enough of him. I love playing with him, he’s a champion bloke.”