Wests Tigers recruit James Roberts has opened up on the toll the game took on his life and why he almost called time on his career.
In report by Sydney Morning Herald journalist James Pengilly, the three-time Origin centre revealed that his mental health deteriorated last season, but that he was currently in a great frame of mind after joining his fifth NRL club.
The 27-year-old was released by South Sydney last season after battling issues with form, injury and his mental health.
Bad news for the Rabbitohs, with James Roberts expected to miss 10-12 weeks with a pectoral injury suffered on Saturday. Typical pec tear injury mechanism, was significant concern at the time but Roberts played out the game. Expected recovery time suggests surgery required pic.twitter.com/jlhvAyeGOc
— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) July 20, 2020
After exiting the burrow mid-way through the year, some, including Roberts, felt that he had played his last first-grade game.
“At one stage I was thinking of throwing it all in and just getting away from rugby league, the media and all [the] negative stuff and pressures and just focus on my family ... and I guess live a normal life,” Roberts said.
“Luckily I had some time away and I found that hunger again. I found a good balance with my family and I’m just enjoying everything."
The Kempsey born back explained that a change of scenery had aided his mindset and rekindled his love of the the game.
“I can’t remember the last time [I was in such a good mindset], maybe in 2018 at the Broncos. I’ve got a clear head and I’m just enjoying my footy and enjoying my life outside of footy and there’s a lot to look forward to at the club.”
Roberts signed a two-year deal with Michael Maguire's West Tigers in November of last season.
OFFICIAL — Wests Tigers are pleased to announce the signing of James Roberts, effective immediately! 🙌https://t.co/mrYO4Ezgdy
— Wests Tigers (@WestsTigers) November 19, 2020
The 151-gamer's new mentality could help him resurrect the form that saw him gain Origin selection in 2018. However, it is the simple things that have Roberts beaming at the present.
“I realised I really do love the game and it’s my dream to do what I do,” Roberts said. “I thought I would just give it another crack and just enjoy it more instead of making it my job. [I] just enjoy coming training and laughing with the boys.
“I’ve sort of changed my whole mindset. [I’m] starting over and just being grateful for my job and the opportunity that I have, not worrying about the pressures and that outside noise. I’m just doing what I know I’m capable of [and] enjoying my day-to-day life as well outside of footy. I feel very comfy [at the club].”
Refreshed both physically and mentally, Roberts has hit the ground running as a Tiger, with the centre dotting down in the second half of Sunday's trial win over Manly, after linking up with ameliorated playmaker Luke Brooks.
— NRL (@NRL) February 28, 2021
The veteran also brought blistering 21-year-old Daine Laurie into the game, setting him for his second try in as many minutes.
12'— TRY TIME! Brilliant from James Roberts down the right, before Daine Laurie pops up on the left to bag his second try in as many minutes! 🤩#NRLTrial
— Wests Tigers (@WestsTigers) February 28, 2021
Roberts lined up inside fellow centre David Nofoaluma, with many from Leichhardt to Campbelltown licking their lips at the prospect of the pair building a fruitful partnership this season.
Despite previous clashes with Maguire, Roberts was more than willing to own his share of the blame.
“Over the years we’ve had our differences,” Roberts said. “I was a lot younger and a lot wilder. I had a few things going on. My priorities weren’t in order.
Although Maguire sacked Roberts during his first stint as a Rabbitoh in 2012, the newly matured version of 'Jimmy the Jet' praised the man that offered him a lifeline.
“Now I’m in a good mind frame and it’s good to work with him and try and excel my game on and off the field and help the young lads. He’s been really supportive of me and helped me a lot. And so is the club as well, so I’m really thankful for that.”
Roberts and the Tigers will start their season against the Raiders in Canberra on Sunday, March 14.