The evolution of James Roberts
"Jimmy has grown into a leader."
It's a statement you wouldn't have heard about James Roberts 12 months ago, and one that comes from someone who knows him better than most.
Brisbane Broncos teammate David Mead has been amazed by what he has seen from Roberts since arriving at the club in the off-season, astonished by his turnaround off the field.
Mead played with Roberts at the Gold Coast Titans from 2014-2015 before linking up with him at the Broncos this year, but that Roberts from the Titans days was a different person to the one Mead plays with now.
Their time together on the Gold Coast saw Roberts involved in one of a few off-field incidents, with the star centre being arrested for public nuisance during a night out in Surfers Paradise late in 2014.
Before that, Roberts was released from the South Sydney Rabbitohs for a breach of his playing contract in 2012, and this was followed by a release from the Penrith Panthers in 2014 for off-field misbehaviour.
This brought him to the Titans for the next two seasons before he arrived at Red Hill in 2016 to be coached by Wayne Bennett.
Following another incident at the end of 2016, Roberts decided to take responsibility for his actions.
With the support of the Broncos, Roberts checked himself into a rehabilitation centre to help him overcome multifaceted personal issues.
It was a step in the right direction for Roberts who did something so many young men struggle to do – seek help.
It's a decision that has paid dividends on and off the field, with Roberts equal top try-scorer in the NRL and the happiest he's ever been.
It's evident at Brisbane's training sessions, with smiles and laughter coming from a man who looked a shadow of himself just 12 months ago.
Titans fullback Tyrone Roberts spoke of the change he has seen in his cousin.
"He's in a great place. His head's right and he's fit," Tyrone Roberts said.
"His family is there. It's the best I've seen him.
"We're all happy for him. He's enjoying it and loving football. I'm just happy that he's in a good headspace."
Brisbane teammate Matt Gillett has watched 'Jimmy the Jet' develop into a world-class footballer, and the two shared a special moment on Friday night when they single-handedly got the Broncos over the line against the Gold Coast Titans.
Trailing 22-20 with three minutes to go, Gillett charged down a clearing Kane Elgey kick, with the second-row forward recovering the ball 40m from the try line.
He passed to Roberts who had rushed up in support, with the lightening quick centre then beating three defenders to score and win Brisbane the game.
For Gillett this extra effort from Roberts was proof of the change in attitude he has made in recent times.
The extra hard work, determination and heart all showed in that one play, and that made Gillett proud to call Roberts a teammate.
"His transformation over the last few months has been incredible. He has a bit of a troubled past but that is the past," Gillett said.
"What Jimmy is doing now is great. He's doing a great job for himself and it's showing both on and off the footy field.
"He has the right people around him and his footy is showing that. He had his best game against the Titans.
"If he keeps that up with hard work then he'll be a great player for us going into the future. We are around here to support him and that's what the club's about."
The club has done wonders for Roberts, offering support services to help him continue to develop on and off the field.
The Broncos have always stood by their centre, through both the good and the bad times, and sometimes this unbridled support is all someone needs to turn their life around.
"I think he's changed a lot as a person," Mead said.
"We have some great staff at the club who are looking after Jimmy, especially our welfare officer Adam Walsh who has taken him under his wing and looked after him.
"Jimmy has grown into a leader, especially on the field. The talk and experience he brings is invaluable for the team."
"He was one of the reasons why I signed. It was nice to know Jimmy was here."