‘‘He would just sit around, be in deep thought and you could see he didn’t want to do anything. He lost some of his drive. The whole not getting up for training, the social environment of being with the boys, the happiness that training gives and doing what always does – that was a big part that was missing. He just kept saying ‘I just want to play football’.’’
While Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett hasn’t spoken to Roberts since he entered the facility just over two weeks ago, he hasn’t ruled out picking the former NSW centre against the Roosters.
‘‘We will have to see how he is physically and mentally, but if he’s able to play against the Roosters then there’s no reason why he wouldn’t be considered,’’ Bennett said.
Roberts has lived a troubled life, but rugby league has helped him sort through a number of drug and alcohol-related issues that almost saw him take his own life a few years back.
Some were quick to assume his latest stint in rehab was another setback, but those close to him believe he has actually progressed by recognising the triggers and seeking help before he reverts back to damaging old habits.
‘‘I think people get the wrong idea and automatically think, ‘Oh, he’s got a drug problem or he’s got a drinking problem’,’’ Jovanovic said. ‘‘It was none of that. It’s about mental health, and there’s no shame in that. People should be proud of him for making this step for himself and his family, and not misconstrue it with other things.
‘‘All the stuff from his upbringing, when he’s got time to think about it, it creeps back into his mind and that’s what triggered him. You know, playing football is what purely makes James happy. When he’s on the field, he’s unstoppable. That’s why he said, ‘I need to go and take time to focus on myself and just work on my mental health’.
‘‘He put his hand up. For him to do that is a great step. He’s not a really big communicator, he’s a complete introvert. So for him to speak up and say, ‘I need help’ was a huge step for him. That’s what he’s learnt from previous rehabs, he knows when things are going to trigger him. Mental health is always going to be an ongoing battle for him, it’s just a matter of how he manages it before it spirals out of control.’’
“He put his hand up. For him to do that is a great step. He’s not a really big communicator, he’s a complete introvert. So for him to speak up and say, ‘I need help’ was a huge step for him. That’s what he’s learnt from previous rehabs, he knows when things are going to trigger him. Mental health is always going to be an ongoing battle for him, it’s just a matter of how he manages it before it spirals out of control.”
There’s been a bit of chatter in rugby league circles of late alluding to how Todd Greenberg’s departure from the NRL at the hands of Peter V’landys and the ARL Commission has turned out to be, for Greenberg, a blessing in disguise.
Greenberg was contracted until the end of October, but was never going to earn an extension. Had he hung around trying to save his job, he would have done so earning 53 per cent of his salary in the final five months after pledging to cop the same haircut as the players.
In his final weeks in charge at the NRL, Greenberg was caught out not following through on orders more than a couple of times. That might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. That outcome, however, has allowed Greenberg to leave with his full payout of about $600,000.
Had he stuck around and worked out his contract, his reputation would have taken a battering and he would have collected half the money he is now earning sitting at home and enjoying time with his family.
D-Day for distancing pair
Josh Addo-Carr and Latrell Mitchell will learn their fate this week when the NRL integrity unit hands down its final verdict against the pair for their social distancing breach. Both Addo-Carr and Mitchell have fought strongly against the severity of the punishment in their respective breach notice responses, which is a $30,000 fine with another $20,000 suspended.
Canterbury five-eighth Kieran Foran has a specialist appointment booked in on Thursday to determine whether he can play in Canterbury’s first game back against his old club, Manly. The Bulldogs are hopeful of making a decision about the make-up of their team on Friday, with Foran to be ruled in or out.
Panthers young gun Stephen Crichton continues to impress at training and is pushing for a starting spot in Penrith’s first game back. He has been training in the centres but don’t be surprised to see him in the No.1 jersey if Dylan Edwards isn’t fit in time.
The NRL and the South Australian government are eager to play one of the three November State of Origin matches at Adelaide Oval – possibly in front of fans.
Some doubt has been cast over the feasibility of playing Origin away from either Sydney or Brisbane. The NRL and the SA state government have held talks in recent weeks and both parties are understood to be hopeful the lifting of interstate travel bans and an easing of mass gathering restrictions will see the match still be played at Adelaide Oval.
Those plans will all but be scrapped if the Twenty20 Cricket World Cup goes ahead.
Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald