Eels centre Michael Jennings.

Michael Jennings concedes the "toughest year of his career" had him seriously contemplating walking out for a fresh start with Newcastle before resolving to drag himself and the Eels back into finals footy.

Jennings could easily have joined the raft of off-season transfers when the Knights made a play for the former NSW Origin centre last October and Parramatta were willing to release him to free up funds designed at that point to re-sign Jarryd Hayne.

Frank discussions with coach Brad Arthur left Jennings in no uncertain terms as to where he stood with the wooden spooners – as one of the club's top earners much more was expected than his disappointing 2018 returns.

Eventually Jennings chose to see out the 2019 option he had originally taken up in July last year, vowing to rediscover the form that's delivered a premiership, Test and Origin jerseys and 136 first-grade tries.

"It was close," Jennings told NRL.com of a move to the Knights.

"Ultimately I had the decision if I wanted to stay here or leave and start fresh. That was a really tough decision to make.

"Ultimately I just wanted to stay and back my ability to help this team succeed. That's my goal here.

"Last year was the toughest year I've ever had in my career. But the beauty of it is you get the chance to learn from all that, you learn to take the positives out of it and you don't want to be in that situation again.

"That's what we're working towards for this year".

Jennings has been back training at left centre this summer after unsuccessful switches to the right edge, with brother George lining up outside him more often than not on the wing.

The birth of his first child 10 weeks ago has given him new perspective on both the game and his sleep patterns.

As a result, a headline declaring him "rugby league's most expensive reserve-grade player" two weeks ago – predicting Jennings to be a high-profile casualty of Parramatta's back line jousting, barely raised an eyebrow from the 30-year-old.

Eels centre Michael Jennings.
Eels centre Michael Jennings. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Jennings was the first to admit he deserved to be axed to Intrust Super Premiership duties last July, but says all his conversations with Arthur have indicated he will start round one against his junior club Penrith in the top flight.

"The first time I heard it was just before," Jennings said.

"It hasn't been mentioned to me, Brad hasn't told me that. Whoever's written it might've heard it at the pub. 

"I know what he wants from me and I know what's needed of me. I need to perform on the field - That's basically it.

"I've got all the hard work off the field too and that'll reflect when we all get out there.

"Last year was a learning curve and I learned so much last year. I'm not going to let that define my career or the player I am.

"Everyone goes through bad seasons. For me it was about learning and how I can better myself. I'm on the right track so far this year.

"I don't need that to keep me on my toes, my training has been positive and I'm confident in my ability. If I don't perform I don't perform, but I'll back myself to get back to my best."