Michael Jennings admits it took Sonny Bill Williams to make him fully understand he’d been wasting his talent in a comfort zone.
NSW centre Jennings has scored a career-best 19 tries in his first season with the Sydney Roosters – surpassing his previous biggest haul of 17 in 2009 – and stands on the verge of winning a premiership in Sunday’s NRL grand final against Manly.
The 25-year-year-old left Penrith to join the Roosters this season after Panthers coach Ivan Cleary and general manager Phil Gould decided he wasn’t doing enough to earn his hefty $600,000 a season salary.
Jennings’ relationship with Gould had also disintegrated after he was sanctioned on two occasions for alcohol-related incidents.
Gould threatened his star player with the sack if he crossed the line again and Jennings concedes some of his actions were unprofessional.
“I think maybe I was in the comfort zone at Penrith,” Jennings told AAP.
“I’d been involved with the club since I was eight, and I always thought I would be there for the rest of my career.
“Looking back now, I realise my attitude probably wasn’t the best and I could have done some things differently but I always gave my best for Penrith.”
Jennings’ arrival at the Roosters was overshadowed by superstar dual international Williams’ high-profile return to the NRL and the addition of James Maloney from the Warriors.
And he said seeing how Williams trained and prepared for games was a huge eye opener.
“It was a bit like starting school when I first came here,” he said.
“I knew some of the boys like Mitchell Pearce, but I very much had to start again and prove myself to my teammates.
“Sonny came in after me but straight away you could see he did everything so professionally. The way he trained and how he prepared for games.
“When you see a guy as good as he is having to work hard it does rub off on you and make you think ‘am I doing enough?’
“I was hurt when Penrith said they were happy to let me leave as it’s my club and the club my family support.
“But coming to the Roosters has been the best move of my career and I am so happy with how this season has gone for me.”
A place in the Kangaroos squad for the Rugby League World Cup is also on the horizon with long-serving centre Justin Hodges ruled out after rupturing his Achilles.
Selection in Tim Sheens’ Australian squad would cap a remarkable turnaround for a player who was picked to play on the wing in the 2010 NSW City Origin team – a year after scoring a hat-trick in his single Test appearance on the 2009 Four Nations tour against France.
“It would be nice to go to World Cup, but I haven’t really thought about, I am just focused on winning the grand final and if it (selection) happens, it happens,” he said.