Souths coach Wayne Bennett has repeatedly stressed Mitchell will remain at fullback – not left centre – while now who replaces Roberts is no longer a mystery.
Johnston is off contract and desperate for a new deal, be it as a fullback or on a winger’s wage, and was simply happy to be given the chance to be back playing 80 minutes. He needs 16 more tries to reach 100, something more than achievable this year.
“The way we’ve been training at the moment Latrell is staying at fullback, Campbell has gone from left wing to right centre and I’ll be on the wing,” Johnston said on Friday.
“I’d love to play fullback again, but being on the wing is awesome … hopefully cracking 100 [career] tries this year.
“Playing 80 minutes gives me more time out there to put the best foot forward and try to get some interest from all the clubs.
“If Souths can give me an offer, I’m not sure if they will or not, but either way I’ll play my best footy and hope the contract comes.”
Souths confirmed this week Roberts had entered a rehabilitation facility a third time for anxiety and depression, with Bennett and club welfare officer Luke Kelly praised for ensuring the local junior sought the professional help he needed.
Redfern officials have been careful not to place any extra pressure on Roberts regarding a return to the field, but it will certainly not be the first few games back.
Souths five-eighth Cody Walker said Roberts and his teammates were fortunate to have Bennett in their corner.
“One of Wayne’s greatest strengths is he has this care factor of his players and he gets to know you on a more personal level,” he said. “It is so hard for me to explain how he does that. He just gets it and gets his players, what they need, and what to say.”
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.