Stunned Penrith star Michael Jennings is still trying to work out how he went from a favourite to replace Israel Folau as Test centre to City Origin winger.
The attacking genius has fallen behind Manly’s Jamie Lyon, who was named in the Kangaroos side for Friday’s Test against New Zealand, as well as the Wests Tigers’ Chris Lawrence and South Sydney’s Beau Champion in being named out of position for City.
The 22-year-old had been touted, with Lyon and North Queensland’s Willie Tonga, as a likely replacement for Folau, who was overlooked after failing to commit to the NRL from 2011.
Jennings, who played one Test for Australia on last year’s Four Nations tour, looked genuinely at a loss about the selection on Monday.
“I was shocked,” he told reporters.
“I haven’t played on the wing since I was 19.
“It’s something different, it’s not the preferred position but I’m just grateful to get the opportunity to play for City.”
Jennings has been carrying a knee injury and delayed surgery in the hope of making the Test side.
“I was disappointed but I wasn’t thinking too much ahead of myself,” he said.
“I didn’t think I would get the call-up so I wasn’t too fussed but I’ve just got to work harder and hopefully I can get an opportunity later on.”
He said he was yet to be told how he had slipped so far down the pecking order of centres, but had not thought about how it would affect his NSW chances after playing two State of Origin games last year.
“I guess I haven’t been doing my job in playing in the centres,” he said.
“Chrissy Lawrence and Beau Champion are playing really good so they get that opportunity and I’ve got to do my job this weekend and I’m not really worried about Origin at the moment.
“My form’s not at the best I would want it to be, it’s been up and down, but I have to step it up a bit.”
Jennings is now likely to miss the Panthers’ next two matches, against Cronulla and Canterbury, to undergo a minor procedure to repair the torn lateral meniscus in his left knee, but he was adamant the injury had not affected his form.
“It doesn’t really faze me, I just go into each week the same as usual as I do without the knee injury so it’s not affecting it at all,” he said.
City coach John Cartwright said the side had been picked on form.
“Lawrence and Beau Champion have been in great form for their club sides, Michael’s too good not to be in the side,” Cartwright said.
“He’s an outside back, he can play on the wing so we’re fortunate to have the three of them on the field.”
One man glad Jennings will not be his opposite number in Port Macquarie on Friday is Country centre Timana Tahu.
“For the Country team it’s a good thing that he’s on the wing because he’s not going to be as dangerous as what he would be if he was in the centres,” Tahu said.
Meanwhile, City captain Robbie Farah was playing down his second match-up in three weeks against fellow Origin hopeful Michael Ennis.
“I’ll just prepare like I have been,” Farah said.
“I’m not really too concerned about who I’m up against.”