Michael Jennings has been guaranteed his spot in the NSW side by Laurie Daley for State of Origin III, the Blues coach claiming the star centre had done “nothing wrong” despite his weekend arrest.
Jennings has been stood down for one game, and fined $20,000 ($10,000 of which was suspended) on Monday following a joint investigation by the Sydney Roosters, the NRL integrity unit and the NSWRL.
However Daley has cleared the way for Jennings to play in Origin III, after the Roosters star was charged with hindering police and offensive behaviour.
“He is a guy who is an important member of our team and if he is available (not injured) he will be up for selection,” Daley said.
“I am disappointed in the fact that he was out at that time when he should have been preparing for a game of football.”
Despite an arrest being made and Daley not being present at the time of the incident, he backed Jennings’ version of events which were yet to be made public.
“It’s certainly not expectations but he did nothing wrong when he was out and now the facts are in dispute,” Daley said.
Jennings has pleaded not guilty to the charges and Daley said he had pleaded guilty he would not be playing for the Blues at Suncorp Stadium on July 8.
“When you know the facts it is quite easy to understand why we haven’t stood Michael down,” Daley said.
“I have spoken with him. He wasn’t kicked out of any nightclubs or restaurants and he intends to defend the charges vigorously.
“He deserves his day in court. If Michael had have pleaded guilty he would not have been a part of our team, but he is entitled to the presumption of innocence. Everyone should respect that.”
Mitchell Pearce, James Tamou, Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson have all been excluded from selection for previous Blues’ sides due to off field issues, with Daley arguing each case was different.
“You have to treat every case on its merits and that’s what my players would want, not to come out and make any rash statements,” he said.
“You need to gather all the facts and make a considered decision.
“That is a decision the Roosters have made, we support that decision and he will be available for selection.
“I don’t think he deserves to miss out on a State of Origin for that act.”
Pearce was infamously dumped last year from the NSW side after a night out in Kings Cross.
“I have spoken to Mitchell about the decision,” Daley said.
“Michael will have to explain himself to the team. I have spoken with some of the senior members of the team, there are going to be some hiccups along the way but it is about making the best decision and not grouping everything in together.
“At the end of the day I am the leader and I have to make those decisions.
“I’m comfortable where it is at.”