Eels getting best out of one of Gus’ big mistakes
The greatest surprise about Michael Jennings is not that he's still playing great footy but that he is still even playing in the NRL.
This is a bloke who looked to be heading for the scrap heap on numerous occasions since he first exploded into the NRL at Penrith way back in 2007.
Yet now, at 32, Jennings is the 11th longest surviving current NRL player.
And Brad Arthur would argue in 2020 Jennings "is getting better" with age.
It's some statement ahead of Friday night's clash against his junior club given Jennings' career was at the crossroads when he was shown the door by Penrith in 2012.
While he's always been a gifted footballer, his speed and agility looks to have made him an even more dangerous proposition thanks to the new six-to-go rule.
Asked how he rated Jennings form so far this year, Arthur said: "He is getting better.
"He is footy smart. He is a good defensive centre and he knows the game.
"You can tell he has been around and he has been coached well."
And he's become a survivor in a game that chews up and spits out talent if they don't have the stomach to ride the rollercoaster.
Roosters fans still laugh about the night Jennings was walking around Easts Leagues dressed in his shorts and socks after scoring the match-clinching grand final try in 2013, and was fist pumping everyone and anyone with his premiership ring as he joked: "Thanks Gus, thanks Penrith."
It seems like a lifetime ago that Phil Gould also dropped Jennings to NSW Cup in 2011 for turning up to training with alcohol in his system.
As part of his punishment, Gould also made Jennings do the walk of shame around Penrith Stadium before a game handing out 2000 free tickets valued at roughly $40,000.
To add to the humiliation, Jennings had to pay for the tickets out of his own pocket.
A year later Jennings was gone and at that point it looked a huge gamble for the Roosters to sign him.
Then after almost getting sacked at Parra after the wooden spoon finish in 2018 - when he disappeared on a post-season trip to the Middle East without telling the club - Jennings had his best season in years in 2019.
That won him a new two-year deal and now he's repaying the club for their faith.
You could seriously argue his form is the best it's been since 2013 at the Roosters.
Through patience and perseverance Parramatta have got plenty of good footy out of him, and yet the best might still be to come.
While we always focus on his attacking ability and the fact he has this tremendous knack of finishing off an opportunity, Arthur also rates Jennings up with the best defensive centres in the comp.
And this could be crucial for Parramatta this season given the relatively inexperienced left edge that includes young Dylan Brown and Maika Sivo.
Arthur explained: "He knows defensive shape and what to do.
"His decision making is really good under pressure and he is a great talker."
The two teams go into this game unbeaten so far but Arthur wasn't getting carried away with the win over Manly.
"The more I watch it the more I am disappointed I am actually, so are the boys" Arthur said of the lucky escape after the Tom Trbojevic forward pass call robbed Manly.
The Eels are heading into a tough period with the game against Penrith to be followed by the Roosters and Raiders.
Originally published as Eels getting best out of one of Gus' big mistakes