New Bronco a Blues bolter says Sailor
Former Queensland Origin winger Wendell Sailor believes Broncos recruit James Roberts can join a select group of Brisbane players and represent New South Wales in the State of Origin arena and do it as early as this year.
Chris Johns, Glenn Lazarus, Terry Matterson, Michael De Vere, Luke Priddis and Peter Wallace are the only players in 35 years to play for NSW whilst based in Brisbane and Sailor has no doubt Roberts is in the frame to join them.
Invited to spend time in the Blues camp after playing for City Origin last season, Roberts played down any Origin talk as he was unveiled in Broncos colours for the first time on Monday but Sailor believes the incumbents in the Blues' centres should already be looking over their shoulders.
Selected in the Indigenous All Stars team for the first time to play the World All Stars in Brisbane on February 13, Roberts will get to spend a week under the watchful eye of Blues coach Laurie Daley which Sailor says gives him the ideal opportunity to impress.
"What will help will be for him to be coached by a bloke like Laurie Daley who is a very humble guy and the NSW coach," Sailor told NRL.com of Roberts' All Stars call-up.
"I've got no doubt that he's going to put a lot of pressure on Michael Jennings and Josh Morris for their centre spots, and so he should.
"What will happen is that Laurie will have a look at him because Laurie will have had a look at 'GI' [Greg Inglis] and 'JT' [Johnathan Thurston] and see how they play for Queensland but they play a different style of football than when they play Origin because of the blokes around them.
"I know the Broncos have signed some good players over the last couple of years and Anthony Milford is probably for me the out and out superstar but as far as raw, super talent goes, this kid will put bums on seats.
"As an outside back, I love watching this kid play."
Although comparisons have been draw between Roberts and Broncos great Steve Renouf, Sailor also sees some similarities with a player who has swagger and some off-field baggage.
The 22-year-old's ill-disciplined past has been discussed widely and he is not afraid to speak his mind on the field, telling an opposition player he blasted by last season that perhaps he was doing "too much weights, not enough speed work".
He is known for his individual brilliance but Sailor says the combination of the strong Broncos culture and the mentorship of coach Wayne Bennett will enable Roberts to thrive in the team-first environment without diluting his unique gifts and personality.
"The best thing about Wayne is that he doesn't try to change you too much," said Sailor, who played 189 games under Bennett in Brisbane between 1993 and 2001.
"I reckon the Broncos were the only team that could balance me because even though I was such an individual as a personality, they got me to be a team man.
"Whether it was Allan Langer, Glenn Lazarus, Alan Cann, Willie Carne, Steve Renouf, we all brought something different to it but at the end of the day each person was an individual personality off the field.
"Wayne Bennett seems to get the best out of people, have a look at Anthony Milford and going back even to Steve Renouf. There were question marks on 'Pearl' back when he was younger saying he couldn't tackle and he was a bit lazy.
"With myself they said I was very talented but that I wasn't a team man and I just think that Wayne has got this unbelievable way of mentoring a player.
"Last year James Roberts let his football do the talking. He didn't say too much off the field, might have been some little sledges every now and again and you've got to let that go because we haven't got enough of those sort of guys in our game.
"I believe he'll be an absolute credit to the Broncos."