Jennings: I should always have been a right centre
One of the most dominant left-edge centres of the past decade, Michael Jennings, has responded to his recent shift to the right edge by suggesting he probably should have always played there and isn't sure why he didn't.
While the best wingers often end up on the left edge where they are more likely to profit from halves who more often than not favour a right-to-left pass and kick, centres take into account which arm they prefer to carry with and which they fend with, as well as which way they are more comfortable passing and offloading.
On that basis, Jennings – who has just five right-edge games to his name back in 2008 when he was a 20-year-old rookie at Penrith – should always have been on the right.
"I carry the ball in the right hand and fend with the left. I'm usually meant to play on the right for that," he explained.
"So it's good for me. The right side is actually beneficial."
So how did he end up on the left in the first place?
"I had a couple of games at left and just got stuck there," he shrugged.
Then-Penrith coach Matt Elliott spotted the incongruity and decided to try shifting the pacey Windsor junior back to his natural side, with less than convincing results.
"In 2008 [I played] about five games there. I was with Penrith and Matty Elliott wanted me there for the reason that I did carry with my right and fend with my left," Jennings said.
"After those five games I wasn't playing as good as I was on the left, so I went back there."
He admits the move has taken a bit of getting used to after spending the bulk of his 224 NRL games, 18 Origins and seven Tests for the Kangaroos on the left.
"It's different – at training I keep going to the left side and the boys keep pushing me back to the right!" he laughed.
Perhaps ironically, it's taken his impressive defensive abilities rather than his attacking prowess to finally get him back on his natural edge with coach Brad Arthur wanting Jennings to help look after rookie winger Bevan French and new half Mitch Moses on the right side.
"Defensively, that's the biggest change and something I need to work on a bit with Mitch Moses and young Bevan French. It's not bad. Attacking-wise I don't mind it, you get a bit more ball," Jennings said.
"It's just to put some experience there on the right. Brad wanted me – because he was putting Bevan there – wanting to help Mitch by talking more defensively to help his game out.
"I guess it is more for that experience there on the right side, with 'Takas' (centre Brad Takairangi) moving over to the left, just makes the whole left and right side better in defence.
"Hopefully a good move for both of us."
In his first game defending next to Moses and French, Jennings said there was plenty of traffic headed their way.
"There was a bit more targeting Mitchy, being a smaller fellow. There's still a bit of target on 'Normy' (Corey Norman) as well. But a lot of teams do target the halves so you end up doing a lot of defence [at centre]," Jennings said.
"On the right though, working with Mitchy, he's a really good defender. We need to work better around him because he gets off the line so quick. It makes it more solid if you've got both the second-rower and myself working well with Mitch. He's getting better; he's going well."
Right-edge back-rower Kenny Edwards also backed the new-look defensive structure.
"As the weeks go on our combinations are getting better and it will get better with each week," Edwards said.
"We've really worked on our defence and Mitchy knows how to tackle. He'll get his body in front and we've just got to be there to help him."