Penrith fans might already have cheered on Michael Jennings for the last time, with intense speculation this week that the NSW Origin Centre could be joining the Sydney Roosters before the start of the 2013 season.
A tweet from Panthers General Manager, Phil Gould, expressing his discontent at some of the Panthers playing group sparked the controversy. “Very hard for any struggling team to rise out of the cellar when key players perform poorly and won’t accept responsibility for results,” he tweeted on January 4 at 9pm.
Numerous reports have since followed that the Roosters have expressed interest in Jennings, especially as B J Leilua was recently released from contract and an ACL tear in pre-season training has ruled out Tautau Moga for at least six months – meaning the Sydney team is in need of a specialist left-side centre.
Tension between Jennings and the Panthers management has long been documented. Back in May of 2012, Coach Ivan Cleary dropped a bombshell by relegating Jennings to the NSW Cup side.
Three days after the shock news and in the midst of the crisis, Gould declared that: “We’ve got some heavily back-ended deals and that impinges on our recruitment potential now and in the future”. Jennings’ current deal with Panthers is heavily back-ended and reportedly worth up to $650,000 a season.
But both Panthers and the Roosters are keeping their cards close to their chests. The Roosters have said that they won’t be making an official move until Jennings is released from his contract with Panthers. A spokesperson for Penrith told the Weekender that: “Michael is contracted to the Panthers for 2013 and we don’t have any reason to believe otherwise”.
The Daily Telegraph has reported that, to make the Jennings saga more complicated, the Gold Coast Titans are also interested in the 24-year-old Penrith product. “He’s a superstar of the game and we want superstars at the Titans,” Titans CEO David May was reported as saying on Wednesday. “I’d imagine we are one of a number of clubs interested in him, but ultimately it will be Michael’s decision.”
When the Weekender went to print on Wednesday evening, neither Jennings nor Phil Gould could be contacted for comment.