Eels centre Michael Jennings believes a mid-season stint with the Warriors has perfectly prepared his brother George to replace star winger Mika Sivo as the Auckland club’s CEO Cameron George called for a continuation of the NRL loan system.
George Jennings will make his first appearance for Parramatta since July in Saturday night’s elimination final against South Sydney after Sivo was ruled out with a knee injury.
He could have been coming in from the cold due to the cancellation of the Canterbury Cup this year but the 25-year-old was able to play six Telstra Premiership matches on a loan deal with the Warriors.
"Georgie's a perfect fit to go on the left [wing]," Michael said. "He's been training there and played with the Warriors. It kept his game fitness up, and his confidence. He was playing unreal."
George, the Warriors chief executive, said he was pleased to see the Eels realising the benefits of loaning Jennings and prop Daniel Alvaro to the club as they struggled for depth due to injuries and a number of players returning to New Zealand.
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After playing for Parramatta in the round 10 loss to Manly, Jennings joined the Warriors two weeks later and played six consecutive matches for them, along with Alvaro, who has been named in an extended 21-man squad to take on Souths.
"We thank the Parramatta club for the loaning of the players and George and Daniel were outstanding to come into our club and take up the challenge of being a loan player," George said.
"By playing a number of games for the Warriors this year it has no doubt benefited the players and the club in the finals.
"It really worked out for all parties and I have no doubt that their fitness base levels are far greater than those who haven't played for nearly all year."
With second-tier competitions expected to resume next season, NRL clubs won’t need to use loan deals to provide game time for fringe players but George believes the system should continue in some form.
"It is pretty important to the fans and the broadcasters that you retain the highest quality you can and sometimes injuries can prevent that," George said.
"If you get a number of injuries in a particular area, like we did in the front row this year, a loan system is beneficial because you don't have the experience or depth to replace those players."
Jennings will replace Sivo on the left wing after the Fijian star injured his knee in last Saturday night’s loss to Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium, while there is also doubt about right winger Blake Ferguson after he failed to finish the match with a leg injury.
Ferguson was named but if he is ruled out of the sold-out Bankwest Stadium clash, Brad Taikairangi is expected to move from the interchange to right centre with Waqa Blake shifting to the wing.
The Storm targeted Parramatta’s left edge after they lost Sivo but Michael Jennings was confident he and George would have a good understanding in defence after playing together in the backyard.
"George has got a lot of work ethic about him, he works hard and does his job," Jennings said.
"George does a lot of the tough carries, makes a lot of metres and defensively he's really good."