Tyrone Roberts credits Andrew Johns with instilling him with the confidence to do the famous Newcastle No.7 jersey proud.

Roberts handling great expectations

Newcastle No.7 Tyrone Roberts understands there’s a certain level of expectation that comes with wearing one of league’s most revered jerseys.

The Grafton-born playmaker admits he feels the burden of being tagged the next long-term halfback at the Knights after league legend Andrew Johns – but he insists he’s not aiming to follow in Joey’s footsteps.

A vital cog in the Knights’ 2013 premiership campaign, the dynamic and hard-to-handle Roberts, under pressure from Newcastle’s recent acquisition Craig Gower, says he’s focused purely on his role in the team… and developing the required assuredness to tell his more senior teammates where to go and what to do on the football field.

“There’s heaps of pressure [wearing Johns’ jersey] but you’ve got to put that aside and concentrate on the game each week,” Roberts tells NRL.com after a training session in the Hunter and ahead of the Knights’ blockbuster clash with the Storm in Newcastle on Sunday.

“The biggest thing is there’s not just me out there – I’ve got the whole side to worry about and if I do my job properly then everyone benefits from that.

“When I first started, confidence was the biggest thing, telling the boys what to do. Just creating a good environment with the forwards – as a halfback the forwards have to trust you to do the tough stuff and for the boys to have confidence in me to do my job each week it’s a big rap for myself and I get confidence out of that and I can take it into my own game.

“Just having confidence [is my aim]. They know I can bring something to the table, it’s just going out there and giving it my all and having no regrets, I guess.”

Roberts mightn’t necessarily be aiming to follow Johns and become a league legend, but that’s not to say Newcastle’s greatest player hasn’t had a large impact on the Ballina Seagulls junior, either. Roberts credits Johns with increasing his confidence, as well as polishing vital skills as a promising teenager – but reiterates as an NRL player he just wants to become known as a “competitor”.

“The first two years when I was a junior [Johns] used to come and lead a few training sessions and that – just teaching us the little things like taking the line on, when to do it,” Roberts says of the time he arrived in Newcastle.

“He helped me as a junior coming through and he gave me confidence in myself and I’m grateful to be taught by the best and he’s done me a heap of good.

“I want to be competitive, I want to be a competitor and each week if I go out there and be competitive and do my role other things will take care of that – I’m not too worried about being one of the best. I’ll just do my job and if I’m doing my job I’ll be a competitor.”

This week – Close the Gap Round – holds particular importance for Roberts. The 22-year-old comes from the Bundjalung tribe, located near Lismore and Ballina on the New South Wales Mid North Coast – and he credits his upbringing to helping him rise to NRL prominence.

“[Close the Gap Round] means a lot, to all the Aboriginal and Indigenous people out there” Roberts, who lives with partner Brittany, says.

“It creates awareness for Indigenous health, which is the main part of our problems – drinking and that stuff. It’s a big round with all the boots and the jerseys and everyone gets a good vibe out of it and it brings everyone together.

“I get back home and see my family whenever I can – I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them and their support. The biggest thing for me is knowing where you came from and never forgetting who you are.”

Particularly influential to Tyrone has been a well-known former Dragon, Panther and Rooster of the same surname.
“Amos (Roberts) is my first cousin and [Panther James Roberts] is my second cousin,” Tyrone, who has now played 45 games in the NRL, says.

“’Mossy’, he was always a good role model and set the bar. His dad, ‘Moss senior’, uncle Amos, they always give us advice and that’s where all us Roberts boys want to be. That’s where I got my attitude – if he can do it I can do it!”

With his family at the forefront of his mind, Roberts will take the field at Hunter Stadium on Sunday eager to impress. Against the star-studded Storm squad, it’s another huge challenge for Roberts personally – and an ever bigger test for his seventh-placed Knights. If they’re to fulfil their lofty goals this season, a win here – in front of their parochial home crowd – is vital as much for morale and confidence as it is for two crucial competition points.

“We’ve watched them and they’ve probably watched us,” Roberts says of Melbourne.

“We’re going to play to our strengths and hopefully it’ll be a good game on the weekend with the Close the Gap Round – a good crowd and hopefully a good performance.

“We just want to play hard and then play off that. We’ve got some good backs and some strikepower in our backline – we’re just trying to create opportunities for them out wide.

“We’re just taking it each week as it comes. Our main goal is to make the ‘GF’ and the boys are training hard and if we compete each week and give it 110 per cent we won’t need to worry about anything else.”