Jennings embraces Blues veteran tag
When he runs out on to ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night Michael Jennings will become the second-most experienced current New South Wales Origin player in the NRL.
With outgoing skipper Paul Gallen (23 Origins) and dropped forward Greg Bird (18) just ahead of Jennings (17) in terms of Origin matches played, the Parramatta Eels centre is embracing his senior stance in coach Laurie Daley's relatively young side.
Speaking to NRL.com, Jennings said he was excited with his senior role in the team even after dealing with calls for him to be dropped from the side following a mixed Origin II performance.
"I never thought I'd be in this position or situation but you know what? I'm grateful to take on the responsibilities," said Jennings, who will also enter the top 15 most-experienced Blues players of all-time come Origin III.
"I understand that I've played a fair few games now so my experience can now have a big effect on the younger fellas. Everything I do now is being watched and I've embraced that.
"That's just what Origin is about. You lose a game and people start to point the finger at others and try and think of solutions on what needs to be done.
"I think Loz (NSW coach Laurie Daley) knows what he's doing and what kind of team he wants. He backs everyone's abilities here and has faith in each one of us. I'm grateful every time I've been given this opportunity.
"The fans are cut-throat but that's just part of footy. You get that all the time whether good or bad, it's just the way it is. The best thing about it is how you respond."
For all the experience he has, Jennings knows he can't rest on his laurels considering the number of debutants Daley has blooded in 2016.
Origin rookie quintet Josh Mansour, Matt Moylan, Jack Bird, Dylan Walker and James Tedesco are all capable of playing in the outside backs like Jennings.
"Experience is good but at the end of the day you still need to perform, you need to do your job and still be that player who can change a game," Jennings said.
"It's good to have the younger fellas around. There's no better way when you have a young fella breathing down your neck always trying to challenge you.
"I embrace those situations a lot. It gives me a chance to show my experience and presents another hurdle that you have to overcome."