Roosters players maintain Jennings should be celebrated

Sydney Roosters teammates insist Michael Jennings' 300th game should be celebrated, with Angus Crichton claiming any push against the centre is hypocritical.

Jennings will play his 300th match against Newcastle on Thursday night, after returning from a three-year ban for steroid use against Canterbury last week.

After testing positive to a performance-enhancing drug in 2020 while at Parramatta, Jennings maintained his innocence but ultimately accepted the charges in a bid to reduce his ban from four years to three.

While suspended, Jennings was ordered to pay close to $500,000 in damages to his ex-wife after claims of sexual and verbal abuse after a civil suit.

Jennings denied the claims, but was found to have raped his wife at least four times by a NSW District Court judge on the balance of probability.

He has not been charged over the matters, and the court's findings did not need to be beyond reasonable doubt, as in criminal trials.

The 35-year-old's return to the NRL was approved by the integrity unit, with his contract registered on the basis he met several conditions relating to the case.

The NRL is under pressure not to celebrate Jennings' milestone this week, which traditionally includes CEO Andrew Abdo presenting the match ball and the centre's service to the game being lauded.

Roosters players did not speak specifically about the civil matter when asked about Jennings' 300th on Sunday, but were adamant his return should be recognised.

"I think it definitely should be celebrated," Crichton said.

"I don't know the full details, but from what I've seen, he stands by that he actually wasn't using performance-enhancing drugs. I believe him and I trust him. 

"He's obviously been such a great player in our game for so many games. Why not celebrate? 

"We've got other people in rugby league who have had similar charges and they've been celebrated and put up on honour boards. 

"Michael Jennings has worked so hard to get back to where he is. I think he should not only be celebrated, but I think he's deserved it."

Angus Crichton
Angus Crichton has defended Roosters' teammate Michael Jennings.

Jennings' long-time teammate Daniel Tupou also said the NRL's oldest active player should be recognised.

"Everyone goes through stuff. We're all human at the end of the day," Tupou said.

"That's just my opinion, don't take it out of context. But I feel like he deserves (recognition) for what he's done for the game."

Jennings is all but certain to be selected for Thursday night, given the Roosters' injury toll out of their dramatic loss to Canterbury.

James Tedesco is recovering well from a concussion, but Joey Manu will shift from the centres to take the No.1 jersey.

Winger Dom Young also faces a suspension while Connor Watson will play halves in place of the concussed Sam Walker.

And despite his time out, Roosters players insist there is still positives in Jennings' game.

"He's still got a lot of speed and zip," Crichton said. 

"He is a handful to tackle and he works hard, is a good defensive centre. He gets up and shuts down (rivals). 

"And even more now, he's got that knowledge and that wisdom of being around the game for so long. He's so good for our younger boys."

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