Rugby league’s most uncomfortable milestone: Penrith junior Michael Jennings reaches 300 games

Michael Jennings playing for Penrith. Photo: NRL Photos.
Share this story

It was a rugby league career that started in Penrith, went wildly off the rails and has now reached a major milestone in controversial circumstances.

Michael Jennings will play his 300th NRL game on Thursday night when he lines up for the Roosters against Newcastle.

It would usually be a milestone celebrated by NRL officials. Jennings will become only the 51st member of the 300 Club and one of only a handful of Penrith juniors to reach the achievement.

But the league has opted against any official recognition of the milestone, avoiding an uncomfortable scenario given the 35-year-old’s past indiscretions.

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo will not present Jennings with the game ball as is tradition, while there will be no media release from the NRL celebrating the achievement as is custom. Other celebrations, such as special line markings on the ground, won’t happen.

Michael Jennings is back in the NRL with the Roosters. Photo: NRL Photos.

Jennings had a Civil Court judgement go against him in 2021, which ordered he pay $500,000 in damages for the alleged rape of his ex-wife Kirra Wilden during their relationship.

He also spent three years out of the game after testing positive to banned substances in 2020.

Should the NRL be officially celebrating Michael Jennings' 300th game?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

His return to rugby league through the Roosters this year happened almost under the radar. In the current climate, it is puzzling to say the least.

But Roosters coach Trent Robinson said Jennings had made “good choices” in his efforts to return to elite sport, but admitted the question around his return being disrespectful to women was “tough”.

“There’s been no criminal charges. So the differentiation between what happens in civil and financial payment and what happens in criminal is really different. And it’s been hard for people to understand the difference,” Robinson said.

Roosters coach Trent Robinson. Photo: NRL Photos.

“They’ve been crossing over, but what judgment can we make when it’s not being criminal and gone down the traditional line there. And so therefore, it’s not disrespectful to women, because there has been no judgment when it’s come to criminal case in that way.

“At which point does he get allowed to continue with his life and continue working. How long is a punishment?

“We took that into consideration, the NRL took that into consideration. We want to play a part in making him the best partner now and the best father he can.”

It is not known if Jennings will lead the Roosters out against the Knights tomorrow night. The NRL cannot officially interfere with such a decision.

Jennings played his junior football in the Penrith district, clocking up games with the Western City Tigers and St Marys Saints.

Michael Jennings playing for Penrith. Photo: NRL Photos.

A St Dominic’s College graduate, he would go on to make his first grade debut with Penrith in 2007 and played 122 top flight games with the club before heading to the Roosters and Eels.

He won both the Merv Cartwright Medal and Rookie of the Year for Penrith in 2007.

As his Penrith career boomed and representative honours arrived, controversy emerged in 2011 when he was dropped from first grade for showing up to training under the influence of alcohol.

In extraordinary scenes, he was made to walk around Penrith Stadium handing out free tickets to a future game by General Manager, Phil Gould.

Jennings reaches a milestone few Penrith juniors have achieved tomorrow night, but it comes with an uncomfortable controversy that has sparked division in the game.

Michael Jennings was Penrith’s Rookie of the Year in 2007.

Share this story