I’m not sure about you, but Wayne Bennett assured me the South Sydney Rabbitohs had not spoken to James Roberts in regards to a potential move to Redfern.
He was categorical in assuring the media that ‘Jimmy the Jet’ would not be joining the cardinal and myrtle in either 2019 or 2020.
With Roberts languishing in reserve grade for the Broncos, Bennett insisted that no discussions had taken place, yet late in the week, the worst kept secret in rugby league became a reality.
Roberts was indeed to become a rabbit, free to move thanks to the money freed up after the retirement of Greg Inglis.
Rather distastefully, Bennett explained his lies were necessary to ensure that the contractual process of Roberts’ move was not interrupted or derailed. His insulting and cheap barbs towards the journalists who he claimed fabricated the story, say a lot about the type of man he is.
If the entire saga left a foul taste in your mouth, you are probably not alone.
Inglis’ mental health issues are unfortunate and wished upon no one. Personally, I hope he uses the professional services available to him wisely and makes a full recovery. Becoming a better and healthier version of himself could be one of the greatest achievements in his life.
Yet there will be many who see the signing of Roberts as an opportunistic, clever and well managed move by the Rabbitohs. They followed the rules, played the game and ultimately acquired one of the most dynamic and explosive players in the NRL.
It appears no other club stood a chance, with the relationship between Bennett and Roberts strong enough to ensure the gifted centre would eventually find his way to South Sydney by hook or by crook.
However, Roberts would not take the field against the Eels at the astonishingly impressive Bankwest Stadium on Friday night.
Without State of Origin representatives Dane Gagai, Damien Cook, Cody Walker and Cameron Murray, the Rabbitohs could have undoubtedly used his services, yet the Knights will be the first NRL team to face Roberts in a Bunnies jersey.
Parramatta were fully aware of the cold hard fact that a loss would see them slip away from the coat tails of the top eight; leaving them much to do in the second half of the season.
The early action was compelling. After 27 minutes, a duo of penalties had the team’s level at 2-2. The Rabbitohs looked most likely early on, yet it was tries to Clint Gutherson and Blake Ferguson late in the opening half that shocked them and gave the Eels the lead.
With both tries converted, Parramatta took a 14-2 lead into the half-time break.
When Maiko Sivo scored in the 48th minute and the Mitchell Moses conversion extended the Eels lead to 20-2, it looked like a done deal for the home side, however, South Sydney responded with a try to Thomas Burgess in the 56th minute that gave them hope for a late comeback.
At 20-8, Souths had a sniff.
Soon after, Josh Hoffman responded for the Eels with a try in the 61st minute. South Sydney continued to press and a Junior Tatola try brought them back within 12 after Adam Reynolds’ conversion in the 75th minute.
But the Rabbitohs were cooked and could muster nothing more on the score board.
Just a late Mitchell Moses penalty goal was to extend the lead for the Eels and complete the 26-14 Parramatta victory.
The win keeps the blue and yellow well and truly alive and moves them temporarily inside the top eight.
It was a night where Mitchell Moses finally found some form, Clint Gutherson looked assured after finally settling his NRL future and Blake Ferguson ran for 176 metres in a dominating display.
The Eels managed to repel the South Sydney machine on a cool and clear Friday night in Sydney. They did it honestly and with integrity.
Those traits cannot be attributed to Wayne Bennett over the past week.
He might have one of the best centres in the game at his disposal for the remainder of the season, but he cannot claim to have told the rugby league world the truth when it came to exactly how his newest signing came to pass.