BLUES IN REVIEW | Michael Jennings
One of the more experienced heads in the NSW VB Blues line-up was solid in 2016, but will forever be remembered for one hair-raising moment.
Michael Jennings, who was the sixth-oldest player used this year - the fourth-oldest by the time Game III rolled around - was second only to retiring skipper Paul Gallen in total VB Blues selections. In his 16th, 17th and 18th Origin appearances, he delivered much of what we have come to expect from the dynamic centre: powerful runs and consistent support.
Jennings' tally of 394 metres - the highest total of any NSW player throughout the series - is a credit to a man who returned to the Origin arena after an inconsistent start to the NRL season. Despite an up-and-down 2015 series, in which he struggled in Games I and III but earned Man Of The Match honours in Game II, the 28-year-old was selected as a reliable part of the VB Blues' attack. A poor defensive effort in Origin II this year will be one to forget, but Jennings still largely justified his selection through his constant presence with the ball.
State of Origin backlines, however, need to be full of match-winners - a role that Jennings fulfilled in the most scintillating fashion in Origin III. With the game on the line at ANZ Stadium, Jennings took the ball from his retiring captain 20 metres out from the tryline, proceeding to cut through a group of eight Queenslanders to slam the ball down and prevent a series whitewash. While the former Tongan and Australian representative may not have been celebrated by his teammates immediately afterwards, the state of New South Wales had witnessed one of Jennings' finest Rugby League moments.
Jennings was one of few experienced players to survive the mass rejuvenation of the VB Blues' playing stocks this year and time will tell if his form will warrant selection again in 2017. In key moments, however, Jennings proved that he has what it takes to beat out his younger competitors for a sky blue jersey.
Origins: 18 (2009-16)
2016 Matches: 3 (Games I, II and III)
Total Running Metres: 395 metres
Metres After Contact: 109 metres