Sydney Roosters recruit Michael Jennings never wanted to leave Penrith, and has taken exception to Penrith coach Ivan Cleary’s stinging assessment that he was released because he wasn’t living up to his lofty wage.
Jennings on Tuesday was released from the final three years of his Panthers contract, reportedly worth $650,000 a season, with Cleary claiming it was because the NSW State of Origin centre wasn’t providing value for money.
The comments hurt Jennings, who trained with the Panthers all off-season with an expectation he would be staying at his childhood club.
“It is disappointing hearing that,” Jennings said on Thursday.
“… Ivan is entitled to his own opinion.
“… I am disappointed because I love Penrith. I still have a soft spot for them … I did everything I could at Penrith.
“I’ve got no bad blood.”
Cleary was blunt in his assessment of Jennings’ output for the Panthers, who finished second last with just eight wins in 2012.
Cleary showed a ruthless attitude to Jennings during last season as well, dropping him to reserve grade, despite the Blacktown junior playing in all three Origin games for NSW.
“The bottom line is that when your highest-paid asset is not bringing the return you need, then something’s got to give,” Cleary said on Wednesday.
The Panthers had been shopping Jennings to rival NRL clubs since midway through last season as questions were raised about the 24-year-old’s attitude and application to training.
But Jennings said he never wavered in his desire to stay at Penrith, admitting it was emotional saying farewell to teammates he’d played with since his junior days.
“My intentions weren’t to move. I never wanted to leave,” he said.
“That was never the option. I went with a positive attitude (to training) and I tried.
“… It was tough (to say goodbye) because I’ve played with some of those boys since I was a kid. It was tough.”
Jennings said he was never given any indication by Cleary that he felt he wasn’t putting in the required effort.
“I didn’t feel nothing from Ivan,” Jennings said.
“I didn’t hear anything. I didn’t sense anything.”
Jennings, who said he wants to slot into his preferred left centre position, identified classy halves pairing Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney as a key reason behind his reason for choosing the Roosters.
But he said he wasn’t being critical of Penrith halfback Luke Walsh, even admitting he didn’t go looking for the ball as much as the Panthers asked of him.
“I’m not frustrated with Walsh or anything like that,” he said.
“(But) I didn’t apply myself to getting the ball.
“… I’ve worked with Pearcey (for NSW). I’ve seen James Maloney at work.
“I wanted to work with them. I’ve seen that they’re moving forward as a club.
“I wanted to be a part of it. I’m excited to be here right now.”