NSW speed demon James Roberts fears he could be carrying the Achilles injury that had him in doubt for his Origin debut until next season as he and Tom Trbojevic bid to shore up a right edge defence targeted by Queensland in game two.
Roberts has been solid in his maiden Origin series, but is yet to produce one of the spectacular plays or turns of speed that have made him Brisbane's most lethal backline weapon this season.
The 25-year-old has carried an inflamed left Achilles tendon since the pre-season, with the injury flaring up in the lead-in to his Blues debut and subsequently ruling him out of the Broncos round 14 loss to Melbourne four days later.
Roberts concedes that his Achilles will likely require management for the rest of the season, but is confident it will not require surgery or effect his blinding pace.
"It'll likely be there for this season and probably be there until next season depending on how my body reacts and what type of physio and extras I need to do during the off-season," Roberts told NRL.com.
"It's an ongoing thing but I just need to manage it.
"To be honest I don't really know too much about it but it's an inflamed Achilles tendon. It can rub up against the tendon there and get really sore some days and it'll be sorer than other days, it's a bit of strange one.
"I definitely notice it when I'm playing, I notice it when I'm walking around. It's a constant thing but I just keep going with it."
With his cousin and childhood idol Greg Inglis ruled out by a broken thumb, Roberts is set to line up on Dane Gagai at Suncorp Stadium, with the re-called Corey Oates coming onto the Maroons left wing opposite Trbojevic.
Roberts roomed with Gagai during his first Indigenous All Stars camp in 2016 and admits he and Trbojevic will still have their hands full with the new Queensland combination even with Inglis sidelined.
The Maroons were criticised – most notably by champion half Johnathan Thurston – for not targeting Roberts' edge when he was sin-binned in Origin II, having also produced their first try to Valentine Holmes by targeting the Blues right-side defence.
But after an early lapse Roberts said he and Trbojevic were able to regroup defensively, and backed the Manly fullback's decision making despite playing out of position on the wing.
"We're only going to get better the more we play together," Roberts said.
"We've talked about (the Holmes try) already, I told him to back himself, if he can read it make sure he's up there catching (the attacking player) and if not just keep holding there and letting me slide.
"We fixed that almost straight away even when they sent a bit of traffic down our edge and I thought we handled it pretty well, showed them the sideline a bit and worked from there.
"I thought they got lucky with the first try, I thought Tommy read it pretty well but he hesitated a bit and didn't catch Greg on the ball so we'll be better for that and it's a learning curve for us."
Match: Maroons v Blues
Game 3 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
- Nine Network
Origin at Suncorp, there's nothing like it! Game III tickets available here