All Stars next step for 'Jimmy the Jet'
All Stars founder Preston Campbell believes maiden selection in the Indigenous All Stars team will go a long way to completing the transformation of James Roberts from wayward talent to representative star.
Twelve months after his name was left off the public ballot for the Indigenous team due to impending police charges that were later dropped, Roberts has completed a stellar season for the Titans and is on course to earn an All Stars call-up.
With Queensland Origin stars Will Chambers and Dane Gagai likely to snare the two centre spots in the Indigenous team Roberts may be forced to shift out one spot onto the wing but Campbell says it is the activities leading up to the game itself that will most benefit the 22-year-old's development.
Settled on the Gold Coast with a partner and with cousin Tyrone Roberts now joining him at the Titans, Roberts is poised to make good on the abundant talent that saw him make his NRL debut at 18 years of age and put the problems of the past behind him.
A week spent in the company of such champion players as Johnathan Thurston, Greg Inglis and Sam Thaiday would be an invaluable experience for any young player and Campbell praised Roberts for the way in which he has already turned his life around.
"For a lot of the boys in the Indigenous All Stars team it's about finding out about themselves," Campbell told NRL.com.
"You talk about the Indigenous camp that they have the weekend before and that brings a lot out of the boys, a lot of pride and a lot of inspiration but also asks them questions about themselves. What they need to be able to do for themselves to be able to be the person they need to be.
"James has worked really hard on the person he is. We see on the footy field, he's a great footballer but the person off the field is turning into a real good young man."
Man of the Match for the Panthers in their 2013 NYC grand final victory, Roberts' chequered past includes disciplinary breaches at both South Sydney and Penrith before he was handed a lifeline by the Titans at the start of the 2014 season.
Since he made his debut for the Gold Coast in Round 14 last season Roberts has scored 21 tries in 36 games and this year equalled the club record for most tries in a season with 16, signing a two-year contract extension in June that keeps him at the club until at least the end of the 2017 season.
In August he told NRL.com that not getting selected for the Indigenous All Stars team made him "even hungrier" coming into the 2015 season and Campbell believes selection in the 2016 edition would be just reward for the way he has conducted himself the past two years.
"We all hear about his past and we know he had a pretty tough upbringing but a lot of people have a tough upbringing and it takes a strong person or a person that wants to effect change, and he's done that," Campbell said.
"Obviously he's had support and good people around him but he'd be somebody that would benefit so much from this game."