Bennett reveals Roberts' drug use at star's re-signing
BRISBANE coach Wayne Bennett has revealed the extent of James Roberts' problems included drug use after the in-form centre on Thursday inked a four-year extension with the Broncos.
Roberts has received a huge boost in the lead-up to Friday night's clash against Parramatta, signing the most lucrative deal of his career to remain at the Broncos until the end of 2021.
But it has been a turbulent journey for the flyer, who just nine months ago hit rock bottom when he checked into a rehab facility in Thailand to address some off-field problems.
Roberts has been sacked by two other NRL clubs for alcohol-related indiscretions, but Bennett on Thursday made the stunning admission that the NSW Origin hopeful had also dabbled in drugs.
"James has had a remarkable change," Bennett said.
"Off the field with his behaviour ... he has made some real commitments there.
"It's not easy to do what he has done. He has given up alcohol and given up drugs.
"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 got a four-year contract.
"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 bought 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."
At the press conference announcing the $2 million deal, the star centre sat expressionless beside Bennett as the coach spoke of Roberts' battles with alcohol and drugs.
The 24-year-old admitted his stint in rehab proved a major turning point, triggering the on-field form that has seen him score 13 tries in 17 games this season, and lead the team tally with 13 line breaks and 67 tackle busts.
"Going to Thailand was a big thing," he said.
"I had a few months to myself and to think about myself. It made me realise a lot of things and thinking about my son made me realise there are more important things than just myself.
"Getting my life off the field has been the main factor here and the Broncos have done a wonderful job.
"They are a family orientated club and that's what I'm all about.
"Over the last few months I have learnt to enjoy my family a lot more, I have a beautiful son now, so I'm looking forward to bringing him up in Brisbane."
"The Jet" is the eighth Bronco to sign a new deal in the past four months as Brisbane build a squad determined to snap the club's 11-year title drought.
Broncos chief executive Paul White said securing Roberts was a big moment for the club.
"We are excited that James has agreed to commit to the Broncos for another four years," White said.
"The club is proud of the support we have shown James, but also the responsibility he has taken on to earn this new contract.
"The long-term nature of the contract is a show of faith by the Broncos in James, but also by James in the Broncos."
Roberts's new contract is understood to still contain behaviour-based clauses.
It's understood Brisbane chose to hold fire on re-signing Roberts at the start of the year as it kept an eye on his off-field behaviour, a stance that prompted Sydney clubs to come sniffing around the 24-year-old as he hit top gear.