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Rabbitohs centre James Roberts.

South Sydney star James Roberts has been praised for his bravery in seeking help to deal with health problems.

The Rabbitohs confirmed on Tuesday that Roberts had entered a facility to undergo treatment to assist with and support his well-being.

It is the third time Roberts has sought professional help and concerned Souths officials have been supporting the representative centre.

The news stunned players across the game and former Queensland Origin centre Justin O'Neill said it took courage for Roberts to admit he needed help, while Newcastle fullback Kalyn Ponga was pleased he was in rehab.

"It takes a lot of courage to put your hand up and be able to get the help that you need," O'Neill said.

"It's definitely tough times that we are going through, not just for people in sport or people in rugby league but for everyone in our community."

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Roberts last week posted a photo on Instagram of a gate closed with a chain and a padlock and the caption: "Not long until the show is back on, can’t wait to play some footy".

The strike centre is the first NRL player known to have sought help since restrictions were introduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic and O'Neill encouraged others who are struggling to do the same.

"With the restrictions and everyone's life-styles changing there is definitely a lot of financial hardship that has gone on within our community," he said.

"I definitely think we are going to see some people struggling mentally so to be able to put your hand up and get the help you need is I think very brave.

"We need to see more of it and if we can help each other that is even better.

It takes a lot of courage to put your hand up and be able to get the help that you need

Justin O'Neill on James Roberts

"It is tough times and it is not really easy to deal with what is going on and a lot of the unknown so I think we need to be wary of that and be looking out for each other."

Ponga said a lot of people were struggling to cope with the impact of COVID-19.

"When you are sort of isolated that's when this stuff emerges," Ponga said. "I don't know James Roberts personally, he is in rehab so that is good, but I think it is more than rugby league players that people have to look at.

"There are a lot of people out there doing it tough with the loss of businesses, loss of jobs ... so it is a great time to be spreading awareness or asking people if they are okay."

It is not known how long Roberts will remain in rehabilitation, although the former NSW Origin centre is unlikely to be available to play when the Telstra Premiership resumes on May 28.

The Rabbitohs asked for privacy on Roberts's behalf.

"Rabbitohs player James Roberts has entered a facility to undergo treatment to assist with and support his health," the club said in a statement.

"On behalf of James and his family, we ask the media and the public to respect their privacy."

Roberts has previously spoken of his personal problems, telling NRL.com after his selection for the victorious NSW team in the 2018 Origin series that he was a "work in progress".

South Sydney centre James Roberts.
South Sydney centre James Roberts. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

"I'm always going to have problems in my life. It's just a matter of dealing with them the right way," he said.

"I have certain tools and methods I use when I feel like I'm feeling those kind of pressures. They are the stuff I learnt in Thailand and just by growing as a person.

"I've learnt to avoid certain things and talk about my problems with people I trust. It helps a lot."

Roberts joined the Rabbitohs midway through the 2019 season to re-unite with his former Brisbane mentor Wayne Bennett after falling out of favour at the Broncos.

 

Help is available 24/7 for anyone who has mental health issues by calling Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14

For further information on the NRL State of Mind program, click here