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How 'attitude adjustment' rejuvenated Jennings after park footy stint

Around this time two years ago, Michael Jennings' career prospects were dwindling after a stint in reserve grade.

On Monday, the Eels veteran's remarkable resurgence continued when he was voted the NRL's third-best centre behind Joey Manu and Josh Morris in the annual NRL Players' Poll, conducted by in conjunction with the Sydney Morning Herald.

The 32-year-old's lone appearance for Wentworthville in 2018's Canterbury Cup competition - only two seasons after he last played State of Origin for NSW - proved a timely wake-up call.

"It's actually humbling to be recognised by my peers," Jennings said in the lead-up to Saturday's clash with Manly.

"Look, I think it's just [that] I'm enjoying my footy now and I enjoy doing it here at Parra."

Michael Jennings training with Wentworthville after being dropped by the Eels.
Michael Jennings training with Wentworthville after being dropped by the Eels. ©NRL Photos

The 2013 premiership winner earned an NRL recall after scoring a try to help his new Wentworthville teammates upset the Warriors in Auckland, but his playing future remained clouded. 

An attitude adjustment sparked his revival.

"Having no excuses [has been the difference]," Jennings said.

"Two years ago I just had a lot of excuses. I wasn't enjoying my footy. I had a lot of things outside of footy that I wasn't dealing with properly.

"The past two years has been unreal for me. I've had my son and he's been a big motivation for me to do my best.

"I'm just enjoying my footy now, which is good."

Having initially been unsure whether they'd re-sign Jennings, the faith Parramatta have shown in signing him until the end of 2021 has been repaid handsomely by the Tongan star.

And after securing the services of hooker Reed Mahoney for another two years this week, the Eels are also in talks to lock down Jai Field.

The former Dragon hasn't missed a beat deputising for injured halfback Mitch Moses in the past two rounds and is set to be rewarded with a contract extension.

It's a notable turnaround for the speedy 22-year-old, who nearly signed with Super League club Leeds Rhinos earlier this year after a lack of NRL interest.

"Last year my only option was going over to Leeds and obviously that fell through, so I'll be looking forward to stay here," Field said.

If it wasn't for former Bulldogs NRL player Rhyse Martin's drawn-out application for a Papua New Guinean passport - which would have taken him off Leeds's overseas player quota under previous Super League rules - Field would be a Rhino.

"I wouldn't say accommodation was booked, but we were just waiting on a passport ... It was pretty much a done deal but obviously that fell through when COVID happened," Field said.

"They said it was a bit late now to come because they all got stopped."

Field scoots his way to a try in the corner

While Field knows he won't be starting when Moses returns from a calf complaint in the coming weeks, he hopes to "jag a bench spot".

The 85-kilogram playmaker showed his pace when he scored a try against the Cowboys in round eight, but it was his defence that impressed in last week's win over Newcastle as he made 31 tackles.

"Defence is something I've been working really hard on since I've come to this club," Field said.

"Making 31 tackles is probably the most I've ever made in a game, so that was pleasing to have a good defensive game."

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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