James Roberts finds happiness beyond the try-line
From the age of five, scoring tries was one of the few things that made James Roberts happy.
He once scored seven tries playing for the under-8 Ballina Seagulls; that was a good day.
After he moved to Sydney and lived with his uncle Amos Roberts, James linked with the La Perouse Panthers and scored hat-tricks in South Sydney district grand final wins in under-15s, 16s and 17s; more good days.
But in between there have been plenty of bad days.
Despite being blessed with genetics that made him the 'fast kid' ever since he learnt how to run, off the field was where James lacked the skills to properly contribute to society.
He knows he did bad things and while regretful, now owns his mistakes, saying that they have shaped the person – the happy person – that he is today.
Less than 12 months since joining the Titans and scoring a try on debut against the Storm, Roberts is eager to turn his third career lifeline into a long-term commitment and see out his playing days on the Gold Coast.
The club is also eager to keep him and as he prepares to face one of his former clubs, South Sydney, on Saturday afternoon, the club and his management are trying to come to an agreement on the terms of his contract.
Doing interviews still doesn't come easy to the 22-year-old but as he discusses all manner of issues relating to football and family for 13 minutes, Roberts never once drops his gaze and says he has realised that to make others happy, he first had to be happy with himself.
"I think that was one of my main downfalls when I was younger. At the start when I came through I was on fire and then once I got some injuries and I was young I didn't know how to cope with it and I was getting frustrated," Roberts tells NRL.com.
"Then I'd go out partying and stuff like that and I thought that my whole family depended on me to provide but now that I'm older I feel like I need to be happy myself in order to be able to help anyone else. I needed to be happy with myself in order to make other people happy.
"I'm very happy and it's only getting better. Hopefully we can sort out this deal soon, I wouldn't mind being a Titan for life from now on. I love being coached by Neil Henry, he's helped me a lot and helped me improve my defence and everything around my game and help me develop more as a man and a person from a boy."
Roberts attributes much of his settled lifestyle to his partner, Anna, and being closer to his family at Ballina once again.
He has three younger brothers who travel north to watch him play at every home game including Kirk, who has muscular dystrophy.
It's one of life's cruel ironies that the man many consider the fastest player in the game has a sibling whose body won't allow him to play the game he loves.
"One of my little brothers has muscular dystrophy so he helps me push harder and try to give him the best life because he absolutely loves footy and he'd do anything to be able to play it as well, so I try to play as hard as I can for him," Roberts says.
"They come to every home game to watch me which means a lot. Growing up I never really had anyone, like my little brothers and sisters. We had not the best upbringing but there are people out there that have had a lot worse but it means a lot to me and it's helped me get through some tough times.
"Now that I'm happy off the field, I've got a missus and settled down and I'm a lot more mature. I was just a kid back then and I made some mistakes which I regret but I don't at the same time.
"I wouldn't be the person I am if I didn't make them but I think it just comes from maturity over the years and having that good lifestyle that I have up here now. It's a lot more chilled out; I don't have to worry about anyone except for my missus and my family and footy."