Serial niggler on the pitch, Mr Nice Guy away from it, Canterbury skipper Michael Ennis’ eventful six-year spell with the Bulldogs could end on Saturday.
After six years of winding up opponents in the blue and white of Canterbury, skipper Michael Ennis could walk off ANZ Stadium for the final time as a Bulldogs player this weekend.
Ennis has been one of the club’s best signings since joining from Brisbane at the start of the 2009 NRL season but will move to Cronulla next year.
His influence was felt immediately as the Bulldogs won the minor premiership in his first season, 12 months after claiming the wooden spoon, only to fall one game short of reaching the grand final.
The club did reach the decider in 2012 but tasted defeat once again as Melbourne tamed Des Hasler’s side, meaning Saturday’s preliminary final clash with Penrith is shaping up as his last realistic chance of winning a premiership.
Defeat to the Panthers will bring down the curtain on an eventful career at Belmore that’s earned him the tag of niggler extraordinaire.
Ennis has a rare talent for getting under the skin of the most unflappable characters with the usually ice-cool Nathan Hindmarsh and Cameron Smith among those who’ve seen red following something he’s said on the field.
Legend has it former NSW coach Ricky Stuart wouldn’t entertain the idea of selecting him for the Blues when he took over in 2011 such was his hatred for all things Ennis.
But after being introduced to him through a mutual friend he was immediately won over by Ennis and selected him for all three games of the 2011 series.
The anecdote sums up the Ennis perfectly.
Four days before he enraged coach Craig Bellamy for rubbing the head of Smith following a rare mistake during the Bulldogs’ elimination final win over the Storm, Ennis was politely asking members of the media to buy chocolate bars to help raise money for his children’s school.
Approachable and erudite, the former Newcastle and St George Illawarra player is a dedicated family man and someone who’d do anything for those close to him, according to former Canterbury centre Jamal Idris.
The pair will be on opposite sides this weekend and Idris said he regards him as a trusted friend and confidant.
“When I was at the Bulldogs he was always there for me,” Idris told AAP.
“When all the fans were having shots at me because I left to go to the Gold Coast, he was always there on the phone when I needed someone to talk to.
“He is the best kind of bloke you can meet. He is that sort of player who you love as a teammate and hate as an opponent – the ultimate competitor.
“I remember when the Bulldogs lost the grand final he rang me up, and although he was really devastated, he just wanted to see how I was going, that’s the Mick I know.”
Idris also said he was angered by the manner in which Ennis was castigated by Melbourne players and Bellamy after the Smith incident.
“Good on him, it’s really annoying when people keep having a crack at him,” he said.
“That’s football. It’s a competitive sport. Do they expect us to all be well-mannered and nice out there?
“So what if he taps a bloke on the head. That is football.”