From zero to hero, that is the story of Michael Jennings’ Origin series.
It might have been a dead rubber but with a miracle try at the death on Wednesday night it might just be a moment that saves the centre’s representative career.
Jennings had a shocker in Origin II three weeks’ beforehand, his fingertips in the in-goal denying Tyson Frizell a crucial try and his loose ball leading to Queensland winger Dane Gagai racing away to score at the other end.
There was redemption of sorts for the 28-year-old at ANZ Stadium with a four-pointer in the final minute after a breakaway from James Tedesco. The Wests Tigers fullback, hailed all week as the Blues’ saviour, almost was.
Dragged down within centimetres of the line by Cooper Cronk it was so close to the finale to match the enormous expectations saddled on the debutant.
They were always going to be difficult to live up to for Tedesco.
Those who have seen him shred opposition defensive lines to pieces for his club this season might have thought that impact would be automatically replicated in a sky blue jumper. What transpired on Wednesday night was a very much passable debut, if not one laced — until the last minute — with the scale of electrifying incursions that he’s made his name on lately. He ran for 254 metres in 26 runs.
Despite having never played Origin the Tedesco’s top-shelf NRL form had him positioned as a $7 favourite with the TAB to be man of the match, and on the top line of betting as first try-scorer.
Both were reflections of the high bar fullback leading into Wednesday night. The groundswell of optimism that Tedesco’s inclusion might be some kind of panacea to the Blues’ attacking woes wasn’t his fault, of course. He didn’t tell anyone he was the saviour.
What the hype about him did, though, aside from making the betting agencies wind in his price, was place a target on his back the size of which far outweighed what might ordinarily be expected for a first gamer in this arena.
Tedesco could be criticised for failing to pass to his outside men on occasion, whether through a lack of trust in new teammates or simply backing himself.
When he ultimately did early in the second half, bursting clear momentarily after an opportunistic inside ball from fellow debutant Wade Graham, the pass to Michael Jennings came unstuck within sight of the line.
What Tedesco would have given for some proper room, the kind of which he has had at the Tigers. In the last minute he showed just what he is able to do with it.