Monday 7 January 2013

NRL 2013: Why isn't the market bigger for Michael Jennings?

Why are the Roosters the only 'serious' suitors for Michael Jennings?

2013 NRL Premiership

By W D Nicolson - January 7, 2013

When news filtered through that the NRL and Rugby League Players' Association had made progress on increasing the 2013 NRL Salary Cap to around $5.8 million last month, a number of NRL CEOs must have been just a little annoyed.

It wasn't that the rise in the Salary Cap wasn't affordable (the new NRL club grants took care of that) it was that the majority of new signings teams had made for 2013 and were conducted in mid-to-late 2012.

So the annoying part is now the CEOs have extra money to spend, there are no marquee players to spend the extra money on.

Then news comes through that Michael Jennings is once again 'on the market' and only the Sydney Roosters are being talked about as the serious suitors for the 24 year old strike-weapon.

How can that be so?

|| Update 8/1/13: The Gold Coast Titans have reportedly released Beau Champion from his contract and the centre wants to return to the Bunnies in 2013... does that make them the new front-runner for Michael Jennings?
|| Update 16/1/13: The Sydney Roosters get their man - Jennings signed a 4 year deal worth upwards of $2 million as the Panthers clear cap space... but who wants to sign with the Panthers if the 24 year old Jennings (who will keep getting better) isn't around?

Michael Joseph Jennings
24 years old
Australian and Tongan International (1/3 Caps), 7 Caps for NSW, 3 Caps for City Origin and 122 games for Penrith.

Jennings is young, incredibly talented and has scored 71 tries in his 122 NRL games at a strike-rate of a try every 1.7 games (a figured diluted by a poor 2011 season when he managed just one try in 15 games).

He can make defenders miss and while he's not quite as quick as we once thought - he's plenty quick enough to turn half chances into tries - which is what you pay him to do.

Yet only the Sydney Roosters seem to be willing to use up their new cap space and take him off Penrith's hands?

Remember most clubs now have some potential wiggle room in their 2013 Salary Caps... so why is the market for Michael Jennings so limited?

This boggles the mind.

While the SMH mentions South Sydney as another interested party, and there has also been talk that the St.George-Illawarra Dragons wanted him before Christmas - how is it that only THREE clubs want a piece of Michael Jennings?

He might have had the odd off-field 'incident' in the past 18 months but he's by far and away the best name on the market right now and considering Joseph Leilua is about to pick up a handy 2 year deal with the Newcastle Knights after getting sacked by the Sydney Roosters for his own 'off-field incidents' - how teams all over the place aren't falling over themselves to get Jennings is stunning.

There is a telling quote from Penrith supremo Phil Gould in the SMH article, that suggests he'd listen to more than just a couple of approaches for his 24 year old centre.

"Please read my lips. We have never shopped Michael to other clubs and we did not instigate these latest approaches."

So basically, while Penrith aren't going to give Jennings away - they will give him the green light to go elsewhere if a team asks nicely enough (that is they both pay him big time and ensure Penrith don't pay a cent to have him play against them in 2013).

So again, with all that in play - where are all the suitors?

A quick look over all the centre combos for 2013 and it's not hard to see room for Jennings on a number of clubs... good luck convincing anyone Jennings isn't going to fit in as an upgrade on at least half of the team centre combos below.

2013 Centre Combos?
Broncos - Hodges/Reed
Raiders - Croker/Ferguson
Bulldogs - Morris/Inu
Sharks - Pomeroy/Wright
Titans - Idris/Champion (see update above: now Idris/Michaels?)
Sea Eagles - Matai/Lyon
Storm - Chambers/Widdop (assuming Finch becomes new five-eighth)
Knights - Tahu/Gagai
Cowboys - Tate/Linnett
Eels - Tonga/Blair
Rabbitohs - King/Farrell
Dragons - Cooper/Vidot
Roosters - Kenny-Dowall/Moga (if fit)
Warriors - Nielsen/Hurrell
Tigers - Lawrence/Ayshford

And then there are the Panthers... who if they let Jennings go will feature Brad Tighe and Wes Naiqama as their first choice centre combo.


Key Translation: Keep your hands on Michael Jennings Penrith... otherwise it will certainly be a two horse battle with the Eels for the spoon (again) in 2013.

Plus Jennings is a special player... and we all know the rules that most NRL clubs live by when it comes to special players - bend everything to keep them on your roster til you have no choice.

Right now - the Panthers still have a choice.

PS. Because when the individual can do stuff like this below... off-season issues seem rather inconsequential.

So here on we want to hear from you:


Comment below or reply and 

And another thing... If you are Penrith do you start Josh Mansour, Wes Naiqama or Dean Whare as your fullback in Round 1? 

If Jennings leaves the Panthers can he make a serious challenge in the 2013 @NRLTweet Player of the Year Awards? Or can he pick up plenty of votes scoring tries for Penrith?

The Voting Panel for the 2012 @NRLTweet POTY (won by Ben Barba) and @NRLTweet Player of September (won by Cooper Cronk) were:
Benjamin Hoese, Craig Buchanan, Greg Delaney, Justin Davies, Maria Tsialis, Matt Spillane, Matt Vickers, Matthew Duncan, Michael McLucas, Nigel Wilbow, Adrian McMurray, Matt Trodden and Warrick Nicolson.

Thanks to everyone for their time and efforts during the 2012 season - hopefully we should be back again in 2013!

Remember you can track all the votes each week after each match in 2013 via the Twitter hashtag #nrltweetpoty