Wiser Roberts embraces leadership role at Brisbane

Deep down you suspect that James Roberts considers the notion somewhat ridiculous.

Ask him if at 26 years of age and with two children he feels like a senior member of the Brisbane Broncos and you receive a quizzical look with the hint of a cheeky grin.

He knows we know his history – of leaving three clubs in controversial circumstances before landing in Brisbane – but he prefers to look forward.

Roberts' recent history is a far cry from the headlines that plagued a teen who came into the NRL after a difficult upbringing.

He's taken time to mature but as a NSW Origin representative and with teenage talents surrounding him everywhere he looks at Red Hill, Roberts understands that he is now a senior member of the squad, as ridiculous as that may sound.

"I guess I'm on the older side of the team these days which is a bit weird," Roberts tells NRL.com.

"I'm 26 now and on the older side so it shows how much youth we've got in the side, which is pretty exciting.

"I wish I was 19 again. I'd do a few things different, but we won't go into that.

Broncos centre James Roberts.
Broncos centre James Roberts. ©Jason O'Brien/NRL Photos

"It's exciting to see all the young talent in the team. A lot of the forwards are so young and so big and strong and have big futures.

"For half of them it's a learning year and for the others it's about working on what they did last year and excelling."

When Roberts left the Titans at the end of the 2015 season due to irregularities with his contract, Brisbane didn't appear to be the obvious fit.

Other than the chance to work with coach Wayne Bennett on a career resurrection, Roberts' flashy style and wayward ways didn't match the culture the club was built upon.

Three years on and he has scored 36 tries in 73 appearances and earned the respect of other senior members of the squad.

"That comes back to maturity and growing up," veteran hooker Andrew McCullough said of Roberts' growth.

"In that backline he's got a lot of young guys and Jimmy has played some big games of football now.

"He should be able to grow up and give some lessons to those younger guys and mentor the likes of Kotoni Staggs and those sort of guys along the way.

"If he can culturally help those young guys come through and teach them about what he did right and wrong I think that will help them.

"He didn't have the smoothest of pathways but he's come out at the right end. He's going to be a big-game player for us and we need Jimmy to be right on from the start."

Of the 22 Broncos who took the field in last Saturday's 25-22 trial win over the Titans only five were older than Roberts, who has 125 NRL games under his belt.

His past will never leave him completely but the lightning-fast centre is determined to be better – both on and off the field – every day moving forward.

"I try to look at the future and take it day by day. I don't really dwell on the past," he said.

"I'm just hoping to build on last year and try and get better as a person and as a player. You can always get better in any aspect of your life so that's what I’m working on at the moment."