Eels' Jennings wary of old club

For six seasons he called Penrith home.

And while it won't be the first time Eels centre Michael Jennings lines up against his former club, the 29-year-old is yet to beat them in Parramatta colours and is keen to change that when the two sides clash on Saturday afternoon in the 'Battle of the West'.

The Panthers have never made the Telstra Premiership finals from a position of two wins and five losses, but the St Mary's junior knows all too well that form goes out the window for the local derby at ANZ Stadium.

"They're still my old club and I have a soft spot for them but I'm a Parramatta boy now," Jennings said of the Panthers.

"[Penrith] understand the situation that they're in so that makes it harder for us boys knowing that they're going to have to win [to make the finals].

"One more loss is really going to hurt them in terms of making the top eight."‌

‌Jennings is one of two former Panthers in Brad Arthur's starting 17 with Suiaia Matagi set to line-up against his former club, while Eels forwards Siosaia Vave and Tepai Moeroa came through the Penrith junior system before moving on.

"I was there when [Matt] Moylan and other guys like Dallin [Watene-Zelezniak] and Bryce [Cartwright] were coming through, they were young pups then so to see them shine and drive the Penrith team now is good," Jennings said.

‌The NSW State of Origin centre's combination with flying winger Semi Radradra looked to click into gear against the Wests Tigers on Easter Monday, however there is still room for improvement with a number of opportunities going begging.

"I think I've bombed two tries trying to give it to Semi, it just comes down to overthinking things but that's my job to execute plays and I couldn't do that on those occasions," Jennings said.

"It's been a slow start [for me] and I'm getting a feel for the game. My involvement was something I wanted to work on, and getting some quality ball helped that.

"I'm still learning… the day where I'm not is the day I'll retire. For me it's a challenge and to have Semi there I have to give him the ball."

Eels teammate Moeroa insists the Eels should be well aware of the Panthers' mentality, staring down the barrel of four-straight losses – a position his side were in only a week ago.

"They'll throw everything they have at us, teams get desperate when you lose three in a row, they throw the ball around more so we will expect nothing less," Moeroa said.

"We played them in the trials and it was a real bash-up between both teams so it will be no different.

"The rivalry is always good and it's great for the fans to come out."

The Panthers have been boosted by the return of Bryce Cartwright from an ankle injury, but have lost Kiwi international James Fisher-Harris (shoulder) for the clash.

 

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