Puletua wants Jennings in Blues' squad - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Puletua wants Jennings in Blues' squad

By Ian Mccullough 22/05/2009 01:59:56 PM Comments (0)

Penrith prop Frank Puletua has jumped to the defence of under-fire centre Michael Jennings ahead of Saturday's NRL clash with the Sydney Roosters, saying the 21-year-old is the real deal.

Jennings has been widely tipped to be included in the NSW squad on Sunday for next month's State of Origin opener in Melbourne but, after two missed tackles against Cronulla last week, questions have been raised about whether his defence is good enough to face the Queensland - and Australian Test - backline.

However, Puletua, who has made more than 130 first grade appearances in two spells for the Panthers, is confident his young team-mate has what it takes.

"I have seen a lot of juniors come through at Penrith over the years and some of them have not developed on their early promise .. but Michael Jennings has freakish ability in that he has that speed and he knows exactly when to use it," Puletua told AAP.

"I think when people put a lot of expectation on a young player ... they see some good performances and then cut the floor away from beneath them as soon as something bad happens.

"But I think with Jenno, he's very confident in his own ability and I know if he was given the opportunity to wear the sky blue he would never let anyone down."

Puletua also believes Jennings' desire to work hard and keep making improvements to his game will ensure he learns from last week's mistakes against the Sharks.

"I know how the kid thinks and he is very confident in what he can do and what is important for him to do is to focus on all of the good things he does rather than worry about a few little lapses," Puletua said.

"I think he is ready (for Origin) now, he has got that ability to deliver the goods.

"I know for a fact that kids that come through and have a lot of promise and people say they will be the next big thing but fall away ... but Jenno has a great work ethic and that is the difference."

The 31-year-old is one of the older heads in an exciting Penrith side that finds itself in the top eight after a 5-4 start to the season ahead of the CUA Stadium clash, and Puletua said his young team-mates have given him a new lease of life.

"The young players have a real sense of belief ... they are all pretty confident guys, but what we do try and do is give them an insight into how tough the NRL is," he said.

"People like myself, Trent (Waterhouse), Petero (Civoniceva) and Luke (Lewis) know how difficult it is to mentally to prepare for a game in the NRL ... and the pressure to be ready to prepare to perform every single week.

"But for us older guys we are feeding off their enthusiasm and confidence so they are helping us as well which makes the club a great place to be at the moment."

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