Benny praises reborn Roberts
BRISBANE coach Wayne Bennett has revealed the extent of James Roberts’ problems included drug use after the in- form Broncos star yesterday signed a $ 2 million contract extension.
The NRL integrity unit last night said it would rubberstamp Roberts’ new four- year deal despite Bennett’s bombshell revelation that the Broncos ace had dabbled in drugs.
Roberts has spoken of his battle with alcohol and he checked into a Thailand rehab facility last October to address the off- field problems that led to his sacking at two other NRL clubs. But he had never been publicly linked to drug use until yesterday, when Bennett detailed the depth of the centre’s private ordeal.
“It’s not easy to do what James has done. He has given up alcohol and given up drugs,” Bennett said.
“James has had a remarkable change,” Bennett said.
“He has been in that situation for six or seven months and it’s been game- changing for him and that’s why he has a four- year contract.
“Off the field with his behaviour ... he has made some real commitments there.
“His behaviour and attitude to his fellow teammates has changed. It is not all about James anymore. It is about the team, and he interacts really well with them and is valued by them.
“When we b o u g h t James, we realised he had some problems, we weren’t that naive, but he continues to improve and what he has done has been quite remarkable.
“When he came here, you couldn’t say he was part of the team, but he is now.
“He is a real important part of the team and an equal with everyone else. They respect him and he makes a real contribution now.”
Just 12 months ago, Roberts was fighting to save his NRL career after being involved in two alcohol- fuelled incidents that resulted in the Broncos fining him $ 20,000 and the NRL warning him that he was on his last chance.
But Roberts has turned his career around, scoring 13 tries in 17 games this season.
Bennett clarified his comment last night, insisting he was not referring to Roberts using illicit drugs.
“I was just being honest about James’s situation,” Bennett said. “It was an issue in relation to prescription drugs, nothing else, and the Broncos have ensured there is a duty of care for James’s wellbeing.”
Roberts said yesterday he knew he had to make changes.
“I had to be better. I have finally come around and realised what is important in life,” he said.