League: NSW hopeful Jennings dropped by Panthers

Michael Jennings. Photo / Getty Images
Michael Jennings. Photo / Getty Images

Just weeks after being declared an Origin I certainty by NSW coach Ricky Stuart, Penrith centre Michael Jennings has been banished to the NSW Cup.

After training strongly on Tuesday to dismiss any lingering concerns over a shoulder injury, Jennings was dumped by Panthers coach Ivan Cleary - who'd clearly had enough after five straight losses.

"He trained really well this morning. There's definitely no injury concerns,'' a Panthers official told AAP on Tuesday.

Jennings was taken off early in the second half of Saturday night's heavy loss to Melbourne - Storm coach Craig Bellamy making no secret of the fact he had directed plenty of traffic at the susceptible centre.

He was also the centre of an alleged dressing down from the club following reports he broke team rules by drinking while part of the team's rehabilitation group on Anzac Day.

Penrith general manager Phil Gould on Tuesday night commended Cleary's decision to drop his star back.

"Coaching staff were unhappy with his contribution in the last couple of games,'' Gould said on Triple M's Rush Hour program.

"The coaches are trying to send a message that the pay packet and reputation means nothing. This is a form-based thing.

"I applaud the coaching staff for being tough on someone with a reputation like Michael.''

Jennings will now travel to Auckland to play for Windsor against the Vulcans on Saturday afternoon - just over 24 hours before Stuart is due to name his side for the Origin opener on May 23.

It seems unlikely Stuart will drag a player out of park football to face the all-conquering Queensland outfit - leaving the Blues to search for yet another centre pairing.

Brad Tighe will take Jennings' place in the centres for Monday's home game against St George Illawarra, while halfback Travis Burns has been cleared to play despite rolling his ankle at training on Tuesday.

Elsewhere, Chris Sandow was reinstated to the Parramatta No.7 jumper with fellow recruit Ben Roberts the latest fall guy for the Eels' disastrous campaign.

Roberts will also play in the NSW Cup on the weekend, with Casey McGuire to partner Sandow in the halves against Canberra on Sunday.

Cheyse Blair comes in for the injured Willie Tonga in the centres, while Matthew Ryan will line up at lock after Reni Maitua accepted a one-week ban for a high tackle.

William Zillman returns for Gold Coast against Canterbury on Friday night, but he will do so at fullback with coach John Cartwright persisting with youngsters Aidan Sezer and Jordan Rankin in the halves.

Alehana Mara replaces Nathan Friend as Warriors hooker against Sydney Roosters on Saturday, the latter ruled out for six weeks after breaking his jaw against Brisbane.

Ben Hunt comes into the Brisbane starting side for Friday night's blockbuster against Manly at Suncorp Stadium to replace the injured Peter Wallace, his elevation opening the door for Luke Capewell top make his Broncos debut off the bench.

- AAP

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n1 at 11 Jul 2014 03:49:09 Processing Time: 1448ms