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Rabbitohs centre James Roberts.

"The Jet's back!"

James Roberts spent a month burning his Rabbitohs teammates with increasing regularity during weekly opposed sessions as Wayne Bennett kept him cooling his heels at Redfern.

With his fellow Bunnies having seen the back of him far too often, Dane Gagai is seeing seriously positive signs from Roberts after he broke a 399-day try drought last weekend.

Roberts and Gagai's right edge produced all four of South Sydney's tries last week against the Tigers, with the ex-NSW centre leaving several defenders for dead when he sped away for his first four-pointer since his return to Rabbitohs colours last June.

The 27-year-old checked himself into rehab midway through the NRL's COVID-19 hiatus to deal with mental health issues partly brought on by lockdown.

Mindful of Roberts's injury struggles in recent years, Bennett refused to rush him back into first grade when he returned to training, gradually building up his physical workload before bringing him back via the bench last month.

Match Highlights: Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers

Roberts and Gagai will combine once more for Souths against Newcastle this Saturday, with Roberts back to his old self on and off the paddock, according to the Queensland Origin star.

"It's been a while coming, Jimmy's been scratching at the fence ready to unleash and it's just good to see him in full flight again," Gagai told

"That's the first thing I said to him after he scored [against the Tigers]. 'The Jet's back'.

"First and foremost him going to get help was about getting his health right. He recognised the signs and everyone was supporting him with that decision.

"He's come back as the Jimmy we know. He's a character and is always able to make you laugh, he's a bit of a clown and it's great to have him back in that sense.

"It's just good to see him not only get through the full 80 but he was screaming at Reyno [halfback Adam Reynolds] for the ball.

"He wanted the ball in his hands, and we went pretty well defensively together too, which is where we've focused a bit more in recent weeks."

While the Rabbitohs went down to the Roosters and Melbourne, and then thumped the Titans and Warriors following the May 28 restart, Roberts bode his time on the sidelines.

As Bennett regularly kept him on ice for game days, Roberts would find himself in the Rabbitohs extended squad opposed sessions at Redfern Oval, going through his paces while his NRL teammates prepared for matches the next day.

"He handled that really well," Gagai said.

"We would have our training sessions and then the boys would go into Redfern and do a little opposed-type session against each other, modified with the limited numbers.

Rabbitohs v Knights - Round 10

"But they go pretty flat out and he was putting in the work. Now it's paying off.

"After captain's run they would get together and have a solid session and keep their game-day conditioning up.

"Put him one-on-one with anyone and he can do damage so I think a few blokes are happy he won't be in those opposed sessions.

"We'll be looking to get him more early ball because you put him one-on-one with anyone in the NRL and they're going to have a hard time dealing with him.

"Everyone talks about his speed but not too many talk about his strength. He's actually one of the strongest players we've got in the gym, he's powerful, explosive and a nightmare when you have to go up against.

"It's pretty handy for me when Jimmy's showing those signs, not only me but the fans too. Everyone wants to see the Jet get the ball. Playing outside him is a privilege given what he can do."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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