How Origin snub refreshed Jennings
At 29 years of age, Parramatta Eels centre Michael Jennings has done it all.
He won a premiership with the Roosters in 2013 and was a member of Australia's winning World Cup squad later that year.
The trio of achievements was followed eight months later with a NSW Origin series win in 2014 – capping off an incredible 18 months for the St Mary's junior.
But the motivation to deliver the Eels their first title in more than 30 years is now at the top of the tree for Jennings in a remarkable turnaround from the days the Penrith junior loathed any side in the blue and gold.
After being snubbed by Laurie Daley and the Blues for the first time in nine seasons, Jennings says that was the personal motivator that sparked him to get better this season.
"Being dropped by Loz (Daley) is what motivated me to change the way I train and forced me to change at least one thing I was doing," Jennings told NRL.com.
"It did hurt, but this competition is so close and all good players have got the ability, but I need to go that step further and want to be better.
"I think at my age and with player's careers winding down, you need to find that extra leg and not playing Origin this year was my spark.
"All the stuff off the field is finally paying off now, I've been working a lot of extra work on my speed and agility with Ronnie Palmer."
A move to the right side of the field has also been the catalyst for Jennings' end-of-season form.
After a recent rev-up from coach Brad Arthur for a quiet game against Melbourne, the former Australian Test representative knows the need to be more involved against the Cowboys this week.
Along with teammates Beau Scott, Tim Mannah and Siosaia Vave, Jennings is one of the more experienced players in the Eels line-up in terms of finals appearances but isn't feeling the heat with the energy in the squad.
"There isn't too much pressure," he said.
"After the weekend it's definitely up there with [my time at] the Roosters and playing for Penrith in big games.
"We've been underdogs in a few games against those quality sides and proven them wrong.
"There is belief but the focus is worrying about how we're going to beat the Cowboys.
"We've been burnt before worrying what's going to happen next and two weeks after playing this week.
"It's finals footy, anything can happen as everyone seen on the weekend."
The Tongan international shed light on speculation he could represent Fiji Bati at the Rugby League World Cup tournament starting in October.
While Jennings confirmed he was eligible to represent Fiji through his father, that nation remained third in the pecking order according to the star centre.
"My eyes are set for Tonga if I don't get the opportunity to play for Australia," he said.
"My first preference is Australia then Tonga. I watched it through Facebook about me playing for Fiji and that was the first I had heard of it.
"I haven't spoken to anyone about the possibility."