Rugby League

Penrith Panther players back Peter Wallace as captain, says James Segeyaro

Penrith hooker James Segeyaro says players are hoping Peter Wallace retains the captaincy in what could prove to be an early test of new coach Anthony Griffin's relationship with the halfback.

The Panthers will officially unveil their new skipper at Pepper Stadium on Wednesday morning with Wallace, fellow playmaker Jamie Soward, Kiwi international Elijah Taylor and Dragons recruit Trent Merrin among the contenders.

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Wallace has worn the armband in an injury-interrupted second stint at Penrith, but is no guarantee to retain the role given he was sacked by Griffin during their time at the Broncos. Complicating the issue for the Panthers is the fact incumbent halves Wallace and Soward are under pressure to start the year in first grade due to the emergence of several promising halves candidates, most notably Tigers recruit Te Maire Martin and fullback Matt Moylan.

Speaking at an Australia Day ceremony at which he officially became an Australian citizen, Segeyaro revealed the players were hoping Wallace would get the nod on Wednesday.

New Aussie: James Segeyaro with Governor General Peter Cosgrove at the Australia Day ceremony on Tuesday.
New Aussie: James Segeyaro with Governor General Peter Cosgrove at the Australia Day ceremony on Tuesday. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

"I don't have any inside word, to tell the truth, but I hope it's Peter Wallace," Segeyaro said.

"He's been nothing but a leader since coming to the club on and off the field. I like playing underneath him and whenever he talks it carries weight.

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"I hope it is Peter. If not, I'm sure the boys will get right behind the captain and we can have a big 2016 for the Penrith Panthers."

Segeyaro said the senior players had not been consulted about the decision, but hoped Griffin's decision to move Wallace on from Brisbane wouldn't count against the former NSW halfback.

In an interview late last year, Wallace said he held no grudges over his exit from Red Hill and hoped to retain the captaincy.

"Oh yeah, I'd love to," Wallace said at the time."It's been a huge honour to captain the club. I grew up 10 minutes up the road so to be given another opportunity to do it a couple of years ago, I took it with both hands. It's something I'd love to continue doing but in saying that it's up to the direction 'Hook' [Griffin] wants to go."

Segeyaro was one of the luminaries at an Australia Day citizenship ceremony at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Wednesday. The 25-year-old was born in PNG and has previously represented the Kumuls, but played against them last year after pledging his allegiance to Australia and earning selection in the Prime Minister's XIII team.

"I've always considered myself an Australian, I just never sat down and did the paperwork," said Segeyaro, who is also proud of his PNG heritage.

"Now it's done I can now proudly call myself 100 per cent Australian.

"To tell you the truth, I thought a lot about [the decision] and what it came down to was growing up in Cairns, growing up and having a backyard, stuff like that.

"I looked up to Aussie players and always considered myself always to play for the green and gold. Guys like Darren Lockyer were my idols, Alfie [Allan] Langer and blokes like that.

"Definitely I wanted to be an Australian because I've lived here and this is the culture I've lived day in and day out since I was seven years old."

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