Wayne Bennett has made the startling admission that James Roberts had a drug and alcohol problem and praised the Brisbane centre’s will to get his life and NRL carer back on track.
“Jimmy The Jet” on Thursday celebrated an exciting new chapter in his life with a four-year contract extension to stay at the Broncos until 2021.
The 24-year had no lack of suitors, however made it clear he wanted to be at Red Hill for the rest of his career under the guidance of coach Bennett and CEO Paul White.
Having been sacked earlier in his career by South Sydney and Penrith, Roberts was in danger of squandering his talents because of off-field issues.
A stint in a Thailand rehabilitation facility and the birth of his son Kirk resulted in him maturing as a man and a player.
His new-found peace of mind has been a major factor for Roberts, considered one of the fastest players in the NRL, rediscovering his best form in 2017.
Roberts has come so far from his trouble-plagued past that the club had refused to have behavioural clauses inserted into his contract.
“When he came here last year, you can hardly say he was part of the team,” Bennett said.
“But he is, an important part of the team, and an equal – they all respect him.”
“It’s not all about James anymore.
“It’s about the team and he interacts with them and he’s valued by them.
“His off-field behaviour, he’s made some commitments there and it’s not easy. He’s given up alcohol, given up drugs. He’s been in that situation for six or seven months and that’s been a game-changer for him.
“That’s why he’s got a four-year contract.”
Roberts, who this year was spoken about as a possible NSW State of Origin debutant, said he wanted to stay with Brisbane for the rest of his playing career.
He was reportedly chased by five rival clubs but decided to stay after getting his life back on track.
“I’ve always been able to play footy, but getting my life right off the field has been the main factor and I think they’ve done a wonderful job,” Roberts said.