In His Words: Robert Jennings
Rabbitohs player Robert Jennings told our Members last week about his move to the South Sydney Rabbitohs and growing up in a family surrounded by Rugby League.
Members received this content last week in our Member Zone.
I grew up in a pretty big family with four brothers and one sister, we didn’t really have much. Mum was working two jobs as a nurse and dad was working as well. We rarely saw mum throughout the day. She would usually go from one job to another so it was pretty tough. My sister was the one who basically looked after me because I was the youngest in the family.
I’ll never forget playing front yard footy with my brothers. It was always competitive, especially between George and myself. I’ll always remember George ripping into me. He would get rough if I didn’t want to play tackle footy with him, we’d have big fights because I didn’t want to play. It was fun times, playing with them, and especially the other kids around the neighbourhood. Everything was pretty much footy around our place. My childhood was pretty fun. We would always play a big game of touch footy out on the road.
My eldest brothers Paul and Fred played club footy but they never really wanted to take it to the next level. They both have kids now and have settled down.
Michael and George have done really well. I’m so proud of them. When Michael made his debut, he was named to play NSW Cup so we were going to watch him before first grade. I was about 10 years old and I remember my mum was telling me ‘Get ready, let’s go watch Michael’. I didn’t think it was a big deal, I just thought he was playing Cup. When they started playing I was looking for him, I was asking my mum where he was and she wouldn’t answer me. I started to get really worried because I thought he was injured. We were staying for the first grade game and I just wanted to go home. I was upset because Michael wasn’t playing and I didn’t want to stay and watch. When the first grade ran out mum screamed ‘Look! Look!’ and I saw him. I couldn’t explain the feeling. I was so happy for him, seeing him run out alongside players that I have looked up to like Rhys Wesser, Luke Rooney and Luke Lewis. I was stoked for him. I’ll never forget that day he debuted. It was a big shock. Mum got me good!
When George made his debut we doing pre-season at Penrith so I found out he was debuting before my family. I was really happy to see another person in my family make it to the NRL. One was enough and to see George follow in Michael’s footsteps, for him to achieve that, it was massive. It was something my family were pretty proud of.
We were massive Penrith supporters when we were young. Being able to debut with Penrith was a massive achievement for me. I was very lucky to get my debut because a lot of players were getting injured at the time so I slotted right in once someone went down. I remember Ivan Cleary coming up and telling me ‘congratulations’ and shaking my hand. I didn’t really say much, I just said ‘thanks’, I was in shock and excited at the same time and I was trying to hold it in.
My debut wasn’t really a memorable one; we got flogged by the Titans. However, being able to make my debut for Penrith, especially growing up there, means a lot to me and my family were very proud. I couldn’t even explain how proud my parents were. A lot of hard work had finally paid off.
I guess that’s why I do it. To help them and make them proud of me.
Then I made the decision to move to South Sydney. As soon as they offered me a contract I was really keen to come. I wanted to do it because I knew the Rabbitohs was a strong Club with so much history behind it. To be part of a Club like that I felt it was going to help me build my game and help me to become a better player. Being here and being able to make my debut with Souths, that’s an even bigger achievement. I’m working on my game, getting bigger and doing my part for the team.
Playing and training alongside players like Sam Burgess and John Sutton, I’m still in shock now. I feel like it’s not real. I remember the game against the Roosters; I realised how lucky I was. Before the game I was looking beside me and I saw Sammy and Sutto. These were the people I was watching three years ago in the Grand Final and I couldn’t believe I was playing beside them. It was unreal. I wanted to pinch myself, I was really excited, and I felt proud of myself. I don’t want to let them down, I don’t want to let the team down and being at a strong Club like this pushes me. One thing it has taught me is to not be too comfortable, don’t be too satisfied and just keep pushing for more.
Coming to the Rabbitohs I’ve learnt a lot. I came here to build my game. My first game at Penrith I thought I was ready but after those first experiences I knew I had a lot more to work on – I knew I had a lot more to offer. A lot has changed since I made my debut at Penrith, I could feel it in the game when I debuted for the Rabbitohs. I felt more comfortable with the game and being up to the speed of it.
A lot of people ask; ‘Are you better than your brothers?’ Michael has played pretty high up, he has represented Australia and NSW so I can’t really answer that question yet. Sometimes it’s annoying because everyone is expecting me to be better than him. It’s hard because it puts a massive amount of pressure on me, that feeling of having to prove it to them, and it can get really heavy on my shoulders.
But I try not to worry too much about it, I try to get away from that.
We play the Eels in Round 26 and I’ve never played against my brothers. It’s going to be tough going up against them. I’m sure we won’t go too easy on each other, we will do what’s necessary to get over your man. It’s something that we’ve always wanted to do; go up against each other.
And that’s when you will find out who is the better one.