Michael Jennings wants to leave a legacy
Michael Jennings wants to leave a legacy with his football career and playing reserve grade is definitely not part of the plan.
But the former Australian and NSW centre is big enough to admit the demotion three weeks ago was warranted and he has returned to the Parramatta backline better for it.
"[Coach] Brad [Arthur] spoke to me … it was a tough decision for Brad, and good on him," Jennings said at training this week as the Eels prepare to face the Titans at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.
"I wasn't performing well. It doesn't matter how many [first grade] games you play – if you're not performing at this level than you shouldn't be here.
"So I went and did my part. I came back and I haven't looked back.
"It is good that he's so honest. He has given me a few sprays."
Jennings played for Wentworthville against the Warriors the first weekend in July, when the Eels had the round 17 bye.
Strangely enough Jennings is only one of two Parramatta players that has played every game this Telstra Premiership season – and he's about to be riding solo since prop Daniel Alvaro (knee) cannot play Gold Coast this weekend.
Jennings, 30, has taken up an option in his favour to remain at Parramatta until the end of 2019.
Rumours have been swirling that with the addition of Blake Ferguson in next year's roster that Jennings will need to make more of an impact to hold his spot. He has scored just five tries in 2018 so far – his lowest tally since eight for the Roosters in 2015.
But he did reach the 250-game milestone four weeks ago and believes he can join even more rarified air – the '300 Club'.
"If I stay in first grade another two years, injury-free touch wood, I would probably get that 300.
"There's plenty of good things ahead; plenty to play for; motivation for me to leave something behind."
Many might say his seven Tests for Australia and 18 games for NSW is a good mark to leave on his rugby league report card. But while he's no longer in Mal Meninga's or Brad Fittler's thinking, he has played eight Tests for Tonga and wants more.
He knows he's near the end of his career but doesn't want to go out quietly, so to speak.
"I'm trying to plan for it. Whatever situation or the outcome is I'm fine with that, prepared for whatever happens," Jennings said.
"For myself it's about what I want to leave behind. I want to leave a good impression – something that people remember me by.
"Part of my focus is on Tonga and doing my bit for them. This is exciting times for Tonga rugby league.
"I feel like I've got a few years on me still. It's just about how I play because it's about getting better and staying in the top grade.
"I'm confident I can still perform at this level. It's been a tough year but I've bounced back from all of that and it's been a good couple of weeks.
"A positive out of this year is seeing both my brothers play NRL and play some good footy.
"For me, I want to be the leader for them so I need to step my game up."
George at the Eels and Robert at South Sydney have arguably had more consistent seasons than older sibling Michael.
The trio would love to play at the same NRL club but that might not be possible. So Tonga could be the answer.
"Robert got a start earlier this year in the (Pacific) Test match. It would be good to get George there too. He should be close," Michael said.