Five years after speaking of his hatred for the blue-and-gold, new Parramatta signing Michael Jennings says he can’t wait to play at his new home.
The league’s worst-kept secret since the new year was finally officially in the open on Monday as the Eels trumpeted the recruitment of the star centre on a four-year deal.
“It will be a new experience playing out of the home sheds at Pirtek Stadium but it’s something I’m very excited about and I can’t wait to get started,” Jennings said.
He’ll be replaced at Bondi by unwanted Brisbane three-quarter – and younger alternative – Dale Copley, but Jennings held no ill-feelings with the club he helped to a premiership in 2013.
“I’m a better person for my time at the Roosters. From (coach Trent Robinson) and all the staff and players, I’ve been part of a great family at the club,” he said.
“I’ve made some lifelong friends over the last three years and the Roosters will always be special to me.”
The former Penrith star will now shift back out to Sydney’s west, where he once spoke in no uncertain terms of his abhorrence for the neighbouring Eels.
In an interview in 2011, he said: “I don’t hate the Parramatta players, just the team they represent.
“If you come through the Penrith juniors, you’re brought up to hate Parra. That’s how I was brought up and I’m sure it’s still going on.”
Now the 27-year-old has been tasked by new coach Brad Arthur to love on the young Eels.
“Michael’s success in the game as a premiership-winner and in representative rugby league is obvious, and he’ll be a real leader and mentor to some of the younger outside backs we have in our NRL squad,” he said.
It’s a challenge the NSW centre has embraced with open arms.
Jennings will likely form the league’s most potent left-side combination with two-time Dally M Winger of the Year Semi Radradra.
The duo combined for 32 tries in 2015.
Jennings also re-unites with former Panthers teammate and expected starting fullback Michael Gordon.
“Parramatta’s a club on the rise and I’m looking forward to the challenge, taking a leadership role and further developing my game,” he said.
“I have some really good mates at the club – boys I’ve grown up with – and I’m confident we can do well in the coming years.”
Jennings has played 193 NRL games and made 16 State of Origin appearances for the Blues. He’s also scored six tries in seven Tests for Australia.