James Roberts arrived in Indigenous All Stars camp in the best physical shape of his career and after watching him closely this summer Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett said there was a simple reason why.
"It is the best I've ever seen James train. He's got an eye for what he wants to do and what type of player he wants to be, and that's what I like," Bennett told NRL.com
"His Achilles issue has been ongoing but he is doing all the rehab and all the things he should be for it, and he's getting the benefits.
"James was very good the first year he came to the Broncos [in 2016] but this is the best pre-season I've seen from him. He has been outstanding.
"He is happy and not resenting coming to training, and enjoys his training much more than he ever did. He is happy and in a better place than I've seen him actually."
Roberts said he was tipping the scales at 89kg after losing almost nine kilograms from last year. He's streamlined his diet, rehabbed his Achilles diligently and is determined to rediscover the acceleration and speed that he said was at its peak when he first came into grade at "a light, wringing [wet] 80 kilos".
All Stars: Where it all began
"It has been more about getting my weight down a bit and [rehabbing] my Achilles which has been bothering me a bit. Hopefully it works this year," Roberts said of his pre-season.
"It does get frustrating, especially when you want to take off fast. That is the best part of my game, my acceleration and my speed, so hopefully we will see a bit more of it. Only time will tell.
"At the moment I am about eight and a half kilos lighter. I got to nine and a half not long ago but am trying to put on a few kilos as we get closer to the season.
"I ate a bit lighter and looked after my diet better… different weight schedules and stuff like that.
"Obviously  wasn't my best year. I am my biggest critic and I want to be better than last year and get back to my best. Hopefully I can do that this year."
The All Stars clash on Saturday night on the Gold Coast is the perfect way to start his campaign.
"It is a proud achievement for myself and anyone that has been selected. It is always a good week to get back with the boys and represent our culture and our families," Roberts said.
"It is a good test to see where you are at and what you need to improve on before the last trial of the year. We've got the Charity Shield after this so whatever I am lacking in my game this weekend I will do my best to try and fix up for the Charity Shield and round one.
"I am a lot happier [this year]. I am at a club that is very welcoming. We have got a good group there [at Souths] and there is a big Indigenous group there as well at the moment and that always helps. There is a good vibe at the club."
Former Indigenous stars create connections for the next generation
Roberts' head space is a far cry from midway through last year when he played for Wynnum-Manly in an Intrust Super Cup clash. Not long after that he left the Broncos for South Sydney.
"There were a few things going on and a few different disagreements within the relationship. I never really wanted to leave but everything happens for a reason," Roberts said of his Broncos exit.
"That is how it panned out and I am happy with what I have done and where I am at. There are no regrets."