Brisbane Broncos centre James Roberts has been released, effective immediately on compassionate grounds, with the South Sydney Rabbitohs swooping in to sign the strike centre for the next two and a half years.
The news comes just weeks after Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett had indicated the move to Redfern wasn’t going to happen. Roberts formerly played under Bennett at the Broncos.
Roberts is understood to have asked for a release from the Broncos, with club CEO Paul White saying he wanted to return to Sydney and stating the club wasn’t going to stand in his way.
“While we are disappointed to lose James, we understand his position – it wasn’t in the best interests of the club to stand in the way of a player who has expressed a honest and strong desire to return home,” White said.
Roberts is a South Sydney junior and began his career at the club in 2011, playing 11 games before moving to Penrith, having been sacked by the Rabbitohs for breaches of playing contract off-field.
He played only six games at Penrith in 2013, before being released early in 2014 for more off-field issues. He signed with the Gold Coast Titans in what was seen as a career lifeline, before contract issues led him to sign with the Broncos for the 2016 season, where he has been since.
The centre played three seasons in the Queensland capital for the Broncos, making his New South Wales State of Origin debut last year while under the coaching of Bennett.
His form has struggled in 2019, with injuries also playing their part. He will leave the club with another 81 games under the belt, during which he scored 41 tries.
Rabbitohs general manager of football Shane Richardson said that Roberts would be a good fit for the club.
“James is a South Sydney junior who knows what it means to represent the Rabbitohs. He understands the standards set by The Rabbitoh Way,” said Richardson.
“Make no bones about it, James is an immense talent, a player capable of representing his State and Country under the right guidance, and we feel that James can return to his best football under Wayne (Head Coach Wayne Bennett) and the senior players we have here at this Club.
“He will add great strike to our backline and through our discussions with him, we know he wants to return to South Sydney for the right reasons, and he wants to help deliver this Club its 22nd Premiership.”
Roberts said he was looking forward to being back in Sydney with the Rabbitohs.
“I’m really excited to be coming back to Souths and playing under Wayne again,” said Roberts.
“There are some great players at this Club and I can’t wait to get into training and getting back on the field.”