James Roberts could be surplus to Rabbitohs requirements in 2021
WRITTEN BY ED CHISHOLM
Former Origin star James Roberts could be made the victim of salary cap pressure and forced out of South Sydney as the club looks to lock in Latrell Mitchell long-term.
The outstanding form of Corey Allan, Campbell Graham and Alex Johnston in Roberts and Mitchell’s absence this season leaves the Rabbitohs with a surplus of outside back options in 2021.
While The Australian 's Brent Read reports the club are in advance talks with Mitchell about extending his stay at Redfern, with the representative star set to become a free agent on November 1.
It’s a move that could see Roberts offered around to rival clubs as the Rabbitohs look to shed some salary-cap space, with Queensland forward Jai Arrow also due to arrive next season.
“Souths were keen to tie [Mitchell] down and lock him away. I’m hearing it’s a two-year deal, that’s what they hope, because on November 1 he becomes a free-agent and clubs can start talking to him. Souths are keen to kick that off,” Read told Triple M 's Rush Hour.
"The interesting part is that if they sign Latrell they’ve got a bucketload of outside backs particular if they keep Joseph Sualli, they’re able to convince him to stay. Something’s going to have to give.
“The name I’m hearing is maybe James Roberts is the guy who heads back to open market. He’s only got a year left on his deal James and that’s the name I’m hearing.”
Roberts was brought to the club midway through the 2019 season by Wayne Bennett after an unhappy stint in Broncos, with the pair reuniting after forming a strong bond from their time together in Brisbane.
However, Roberts has only managed 18 games for the Rabbitohs since his arrival, with his time in South Sydney not without its dramas.
Roberts was struck down by a pectoral injury in July and ruled out for the year, with the likes of Graham and Allan starring in his absence and proving a crucial part of Bennett’s backline.
“They’ve got so many outside backs and the way Corey Allan’s going, Campbell Graham, and they’ve kept Alex Johnston now,” Read added.
"They’ve got a million outside backs and you can’t keep them all.
“Wayne’s been a pretty staunch supporter of him. I don’t know where Jason Demetriou sits on him I haven’t checked that out, but Jason will be in charge in 12 months’ time, not Wayne,”
Penrith Panthers great Mark Geyer admitted Roberts’ injury woes would almost leave the Rabbitohs with no choice given the form of some of their other backline options.
“That wouldn’t surprise me,” Geyer said on Triple M of the Roberts rumours.
“Basically you’re only as good as your last game and I can’t even remember with Jimmy the Jet’s last game was, he’s very injury-prone.”