Wayne Bennett has unequivocally ruled out signing struggling Broncos flyer James Roberts, scotching suggestions of a reunion for the pair at Redfern.
Roberts has been linked with the Rabbitohs repeatedly of late amid injury dramas and speculation of a fallout with new Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold. Greg Inglis’ recent retirement only fuelled suggestions the Blues incumbent is set to return to Sydney.
Bennett has been the most influential coach of Roberts’ career, helping him through off-field issues and a torrid upbringing to become one of the game’s elite centres during their time together at Red Hill.
NRL.com understands that Roberts' uncle and former Dragons star Amos had reached out to Bennett in recent weeks to gauge Souths' interest in bringing the 26-year-old back to the club where his career started.
But in the same week Roberts was dumped from first grade by Seibold, Bennett emphatically ruled out making a play for the Indigenous speedster, leaving Roberts to fight for his future at the Queensland powerhouse.
“We haven’t approached him,” Bennett said on Saturday.
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“James won’t be coming to South Sydney - this year or next year.
“He is under contract until (the end of 2021) and in that time we will review our situation but that’s our position.
“We have Braidon Burns to come back (from injury) and we have a good young player in Adam Doueihi, who can play a number of positions, he is due back the same time as Braidon.
“We are looking for a centre but we want the right player and the right guy for the club.
“That’s why we have been patient. We don’t want to rush into something that we don’t want.”
A Broncos recall looms for Roberts against the Roosters next week given Jack Bird’s feared ACL rupture, though Seibold refused to guarantee the man nicknamed 'Jet' a walk up start, with Jamayne Isaako and Gehamat Shibasaki also in contention.
"It’s a big challenge for whoever plays at centre there, whether it is Jimmy, Gehamat or Jamayne,” Seibold said.
“I want to have a good look at the game and then pick a team on what we are confronting which is Latrell, who is the best left centre in the competition.”
Bennett backed Roberts to rediscover his best as he deals with an ongoing Achilles injury and constant speculation about his future.
"James has good people around him in Brisbane, I’m sure he can handle it,” Bennett said.
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“James played against us (two weeks ago) and I saw a bit of vision of him.
“He has had an Achilles problem, but this time last year he was ready to be picked for NSW.
“He needs a bit of confidence like most players do when they are going through a tough period. I’m not always sure how you get that. You can take them to that place but they have to get there themselves.
“The injury to Jack Bird might give him the opportunity to come back and I hope James can grab it.”