Wayne Bennett insists centre James Roberts is making all the tough plays that are required in State of Origin as the Brisbane Broncos strike weapon targets a NSW Blues jersey.
Roberts came up with two decisive plays in the final five minutes of his team's 22-20 win over the Canterbury Bulldogs.
A weaving Roberts run in the middle of the park led to a try to Joe Ofahengaue and then he got involved again with a minute to go.
Roberts put up a towering bomb which led to the Broncos being awarded a penalty when Moses Mbye pushed Darius Boyd as he tried to regather.
It is Roberts' involvement, his defence and willingness to do all the tough one-per-centers which has most impressed Bennett.
"He is doing the things I haven't seen him do in the past and that's the tough things that you have to do in that Origin level," Bennett said.
"When it is not going for you and not much is happening you need to be prepared to just knuckle down and do your job really well and not be a liability to the team.
"I think he is in a good place to be able to do that."
Bennett said Roberts had backed up an outstanding game against South Sydney with another blue-chip performance as he continued to develop his all-round game.
He said Roberts was more than just an athlete and had the footy smarts to go with it.
"It was all flash and show from James when he first arrived here and when he wasn't getting the ball, he didn't want to participate," Bennett said.
"Two years on he has learnt how to be a good pro and is doing a lot of things out there that are making a difference for us without the starry 40 or 50 yard runs.
"His defence was really good tonight. He did a tough job on Inglis [last week] and [Josh] Morris is a really good player as we all know.
"James is probably the most heavily marked player in the game in that area where he plays because everyone knows you can't give him half a metre.
"I am just pleased he is doing a lot of little things that he didn't do in the past. He's a rock for us at the moment."
Bennett hailed the courage of his side to never give up despite not hitting the lead in the game until the 80th minute.
"I liked the way we were behind all night and just kept at it. They are the qualities you want to see in your football team," Bennett said.
"It doesn't always go to script but you want to see them not give up."
The young Broncos forwards were enormous on a night when Matt Gillett and Josh McGuire were both missing with injury.
Bennett also revealed 18-year-old Payne Haas had an ankle injury and not concussion after he left the field following a collision with David Klemmer in the 56th minute.
Broncos press conference - Round 9