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It's a tired old cliché that usually gets trotted out in B-grade rom coms. 

If you truly love someone, set them free. If they're truly meant to be yours, they'll come back. If they don't it was never meant to be.

In the wacky old world of rugby league, love didn't get much truer than that between Penrith and local boy Michael Jennings. Blacktown born and raised, a St Mary's junior. Hailed as the greatest thing since sliced bread - or out foot of the mountains way - since Freddie Fittler joined the ranks of the Choccie Soldiers. 

But somewhere in between the $600,000-a-year deals, the rise to representative regular and the nomination as the Panthers' marquee man, the love was strangled. In his own words, where two will never be used where one will do, Jennings got "too comfortable".

Which made life out in the 'Wild West' decidedly uncomfortable. A stint in reserve grade came when Ivan Cleary had had a gutful of his poor attitude. A month later, a $10,000 fine was meted out for drinking while laid up with injury. 

And two months on came the clincher. Jennings rolled into training thoroughly worse for wear from the previous night's exploits, was dropped, fined and ordered to pay for and distribute $44,000 worth of junior passes at halftime to the fans he had let down. 

Before long he was out the door with a year to run on his contract, headed for Bondi and greener pastures. 

A parting shot from Cleary, who declared: "When your highest-paid asset is not bringing the return you need, then something's got to give," ringing in his ears.

All of which Jennings is thankful for.

"I can thank them for opening my eyes and putting me in a position where I can start playing some good footy and doing my part for a team," Jennings says.

"I put myself in the position to be released and I've got no grudge. That's part of football.

"To open my eyes and see the mistakes that I made when I was over there. I took it for granted some stuff. 

"I was too comfortable over there and coming over here I'm on my toes all the time. There's young players coming through and I'm always on my toes. 

"I'm just grateful to be where I am now and [to have] a second chance and be doing my bit here."

So no, Jennings won't be back. Turns out he and the mountain men weren't meant to be. 

Not that he doesn't still harbour a soft spot for his old team. Or that it didn't sting being punted from the only club he'd ever known.

"It took a while [to get over it]," Jennings says.

"Just to get over the act that what happened over there, it did take a while. It was hurtful at the time.

"There's no regret there.

"I've still got my two younger brothers (21-year-old George and 18-year-old Australian schoolboy Robert) there. I've still got a soft spot for them but I'm over all of that. My team now is the Roosters. I'm comfortable and grateful for the opportunity that the Roosters have given me."

With two years to run on his current deal, Jennings can see himself playing out the rest of his days in the red, white and blue. 

And as the 26-year-old lines up against his former club as they play their first finals footy since 2010, Jennings, unlike the rest of rugby league land, is not surprised one iota by their resurgence. 

Likewise, he concedes that the salary cap restructuring that saw he and fan favourites Luke Lewis, Petero Civoniceva and Michael Gordon all moved on has proven to be for the best.

"No I haven't been surprised," Jennings says.

"I've been there and they're coached well and they've recruited well as well.

"Obviously there were issues there with how much people were getting paid over there and some were on too much but I guess that's the choices they made."

"That was the choice they made back then, to be better in later seasons.

"It's just good to see them there and it'll be a tough game this week."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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