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Roosters in telling Michael Jennings move as NRL return edges closer

The Sydney Roosters have elevated Michael Jennings into their top-30 squad.

The NRL has given Michael Jennings the green light to make his first-grade return after the Sydney Roosters moved the former Kangaroos centre into their top-30 squad. Jennings hasn't played since the 2020 finals series when he tested positive for banned performance-enhancing substances while playing for Parramatta but signed a 'train and trial' deal with the Tri Colours in November last year.

Under the NRL rules, train and trial players are unable to play first grade until round 11 unless they gain NRL approval. After impressing in the opening two NSW Cup games, the Roosters moved to upgrade Jennings's contract to include him in their top-30 squad. Since then the 35-year-old has been cleared to make his NRL return, with the Roosters naming him as 18th man for their Friday night clash with Souths. Jennings can only play as 18th man if there are multiple concussions or if a concussion is caused by an act of foul play that results in a sin-binning or sending-off.

Pictured Michael Jennings
Michael Jennings' first grade return is edging closer after the Sydney Roosters moved him into their top 30 squad. Image: Getty

The move is a major indication that he will make his NRL return in the near future, with coach Trent Robinson - who coached Jennings during the Roosters' 2013 premiership win - saying the centre is desperate to re-write his rugby league history.

It has been a tough few years for the former State of Origin centre. He was handed a provisional suspension on the morning of the Eels' semi-final match against South Sydney in 2020 after returning a positive test for Ibutamoren and Ligandrol. He was then hit with a three-year ban before parting ways with the Eels last year.

The Roosters then moved to bring him to the club to add to their squad depth. Jennings still faces a tough task to force his way into the centres, with Joey Manu, Joseph Suaali and Billy Smith all seemingly ahead of him in the pecking order.

While a return to the side this year is no guarantee, if Robinson is to throw him a chance, the coach is sure he won't let him down, stating that the veteran is out for redemption. "There's a desire to re-write his story," Robinson said. "There was a carrot there to get his life and career back on track and that was himself but also through the Roosters.

"I didn't feel like he was done, he didn't feel like he was done but he's had to work for it. That's come with high-quality training and then some really good performances in reserve grade."

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 03: Michael Jennings of the Eels makes a break during the NRL Qualifying Final match between the Melbourne Storm and the Parramatta Eels at Suncorp Stadium on October 03, 2020 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Michael Jennings hasn't played since the 2020 finals series when he tested positive for banned performance-enhancing substances while playing for Parramatta. (Bradley Kanaris via Getty Images)

Trent Robinson says Michael Jennings a good chance of making NRL return this year

Robinson says despite the depth at the Tri Colours, Jennings could find his way into the side if there are injuries or through James Tedesco's possible Blues selection. The 300-game milestone is well within the realm of possibility for Jennings, who has played 298 games across stints at Penrith, the Roosters and Parramatta and Robinson hopes he can finish his career the right way.

"Definitely (he could play NRL this year). That's what he's here for," Robinson said. "We know we've got that (depth) but we like to think some of them might be missing at different times as well throughout the year.

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"That would be ideal and the man can play footy still. That'll be about getting him into a position and we want to get him towards 300 games. He's been a Rooster, he's done some things on the field that we need to thank him for. It's time to finish his career in the right way and re-write it as it should've been."

with AAP

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