“I think it’s been hard for everyone, but footy is all James has got, and he’s been going through a hard time with the COVID pandemic,” Roberts said.
“I can’t speak for him personally. But footy is his livelihood.
“It’s good he’s gone back [to rehab]. It’s his place where he can stay on top of things mentally. He’s being brave and not trying to hide anything. This will be something that will be ongoing.”
“I just want to make sure he’s healthy and happy.”
Roberts posted on Instagram just a week ago that he was looking forward to the NRL resumption on May 28: “Not long until the show is back on, can’t wait to play some footy.”
He first entered a Thai rehabilitation centre for alcohol, anxiety and depression issues when he was at the Brisbane Broncos in 2016, then returned again in 2018.
Roberts was thrown a career lifeline by Bennett last year to ditch Red Hill for Redfern, but the ‘Jet’ failed to produce his best football. He lived with Amos Roberts when he first moved back to Sydney.
James Roberts was sacked by Souths, his junior club, nearly a decade ago, found more trouble at Penrith before he started to play his best football north of the border for the Gold Coast and Brisbane.
Souths said in their statement: “Rabbitohs player James Roberts has entered a facility to undergo treatment to assist with and support his health.
“On behalf of James and his family, we ask the media and the public to respect their privacy.”
There was a lot of excitement about Roberts’ second coming at Souths. Some at the club still cannot believe the day he nearly broke 10 seconds over 100m to mow down Krisnan Inu in a game against the New Zealand Warriors.
Roberts appears long odds to be ready for the return of the competition at the end of the month.
In an interview with NRL.com in 2018, Roberts said of his personal issues: “I’m still a work in progress. I’m always going to have problems in my life. It’s just a matter of dealing with them the right way.
“I have certain tools and methods I use when I feel like I’m feeling those kind of pressures. They are the stuff I learnt in Thailand and just by growing as a person.
“I’ve learnt to avoid certain things and talk about my problems with people I trust. It helps a lot.”
Boxer Glen Kelly, who fought Roy Jones Jr for a world title, was doing some sparring work with Roberts in the lead-up to the NRL finals last year and told the Herald: “I told him to keep his head down otherwise he’ll end up working like the rest of us.
“I tried many moons ago to try and get through to him when he was at Penrith.”
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.