James Roberts enthralled crowds in 2015. Many regard him as the fastest man in the rugby league and he has certainly begun to the potential many have seen in him since he first made it to the NRL at age 18 in 2011.
Yet it is not what he can do in a flash but what he can deliver over an entire game and a whole season that ‘Jimmy the Jet’ has wanted to, and needed to, focus on and coach Neil Henry has been happy with his development throughout 2015.
“My main aim was to be as consistent as I could and to put in a full NRL season for the first time, which I did,” said Roberts who played in all 24 games, despite carrying a painful back injury for the last month of the season.
“While I wanted to concentrate on my attack and really contribute to the team winning games, defensively I wanted to be a lot more consistent and effective too which I really worked hard on.”
Roberts admits that as the tries flowed in the first two thirds of the season – 14 of them in 14 games – he set himself the goal of taking the club’s try-scoring record of 16 in a season but had to settle with equalling David Mead’s mark of 2011 after crossing just twice in the Titans’ last 12 matches.
Some were stunning, with his blinding pace, change of direction capabilities and upper body strength providing opportunities others could not attempt and he scored three in the one game against the Eels and set up another for Mead.
It was appropriate he won the Titans’ try of the year award, a Jet-special in round 21 against the Bulldogs in Gosford, and put himself in the picture for higher representative honours after being selected for City Origin and called into NSW Origin camp for a few days for the experience.
Yet all those achievements have manifested from the once-troubled Roberts feeling settled and content on the Gold Coast and having signed a two-year deal for the 2016-17 seasons.
“It’s the happiest I have been in my career and I’m grateful for the club giving me an opportunity and having faith in me and I want to reward them for that,” he said.
“I’m looking to being more professional and successful next season and playing a part in having all of us on the same page and improving even more.
“As a team we have to be more consistent.”
In the previous four seasons Roberts had played 28 NRL games but almost doubled that this season and went from an enigmatic speedster towards his goal of being a consistent rep player. Next season may very well be a benchmark one in his career.
JAMES ROBERTS’s 2015 SEASON
Avg. mins: 80
Avg. runs per game: 10.5
Avg. metres per game: 105
Avg. tackles: 12
Line breaks: 13
Career stats: Games – 52; tries – 32.