Bulldogs X-Factor: Ben Roberts

With Brett Kimmorley joining the Bulldogs, the pressure on Ben Roberts’ shoulders is relieved in one way, but increased in another.<br><br>No longer is all the focus on Roberts and no longer does he have to lead the Dogs attack. However with less responsibility he should also have more time. More time to play his natural game and show us all what a talented footballer he really is. More time to stand up and be counted.<br><br>Roberts, is salivating at the prospect.<br><br>“Having Noddy at the club has been good for all of us and certainly helps me. It takes a bit of the pressure off of me and should allow me to play more of my natural game by running the ball a bit more and taking on the line.<br><br>“I’m really looking forward to playing with him. Growing up he was one of the best halfbacks in the game with Andrew Johns and even though we haven’t had a lot of time together in the off season I think we can strike up a pretty good combination.”<br><br>Before he can play his natural game, Roberts must first cement his spot in the starting 13. He has a group of halves including Daniel Holdsworth and Bulldog pup Ben Barba pouring pressure on him for the number six jersey. <br><br>This may be the inspiration Roberts needs to get more consistency into his game and have a huge year.<br><br>“It feels good to be selected in the side and I’m grateful for that with the likes of Ben Barba and Dan Holdsworth there as well. I just have to play well early on and cement my spot in the team.”<br><br>If Roberts does that he is looking at making a return to the Kiwi side, despite playing for Samoa in the World Cup.<br><br>“I’d like to make it back into the New Zealand team too, but I have to worry about my club form and if that goes well then I can make it back.”<br><br>Roberts is doing all he can. This pre-season under new coach Kevin Moore has got Roberts looking and feeling fitter than ever.<br><br>“Kevin has done a lot for us and he’s helped me work on a few things in my game.<br><br>“I’ve just been working on all the little things, especially my defence and my fitness which have probably let me down a bit over the last couple of seasons.<br><br>“As a team we have done a lot more running and concentrated on that more, whereas in the past we have done a lot of cycling and swimming, but I’m feeling better for the running.”<br><br>Despite winning the wooden spoon last season, Roberts is adamant the club have nothing to prove.<br><br>“Last year we struggled but I don’t think we have a lot to prove to anyone. It was a tough year for the players but we have a new coach and a new team. I don’t think many people are expecting a lot from us. It will be nice to be underdogs.<br><br>“If we can win a few of our early games this season against the likes of the Panthers, Titans, Sharks and Rabbitohs then we will have had the start we wanted. We’re pretty confident we can win a few of those games.”<br><br>With all the changes taking place at the club, Roberts is one of few constants in the team and thinks the mix of old and new could be just what the Dogs need.<br><br>“All of the new guys have impressed me. Ben Hannant, Michael Ennis, Josh Morris, they have all looked really good. Mick brings a lot of experience, Ben is an Origin player and Josh brings a lot of pace to the backline.<br><br>“With Jamal Idris there as well I think we are capable of scoring some points and have the right mixture of youth and experience.”<br><br>One thing is for sure if we see the best of Ben Roberts this year the Bulldogs will be one of the premiership’s big improvers.<br><br>