James Roberts on the fly against his former club. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled
James Roberts on the fly against his former club. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled

Streamlined Jet’s transformation in bid to catch Fox

South Sydney flyer James Roberts is ready to reclaim his title as fastest man in rugby league after dropping 7kg in preparation for next season.

Roberts opened up on the physical overhaul that has him "really focusing on my speed again".

As part of his transformation, the centre is tipping the scales at 90kg - or 7kg lighter than earlier this year in his first season with the Rabbitohs.

"And I won't play any higher than 92kg," the indigenous superstar said.

"Over the past couple of years, I've gone away from staying light and really focusing on my speed. But that's my main asset.

 

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James Roberts on the fly against his former club. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled
James Roberts on the fly against his former club. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled

"So I'm going to try and bring that back again in the new year."

Roberts, who last week joined a NSWRL contingent that visited towns affected by the bushfires, has also made changes to areas like pre­habilitation, training loads and even strengthening techniques for his ankles in a bid to prevent the Achilles problems that hampered his return to Redfern.

Melbourne flyer Josh Addo-Carr is the code's quickest man, having recorded a sizzling Telstra Tracker time of 38.5km/h this year. Roberts, 26, is 16th on that list with a time of 35.2km/h.

However, after a disrupted year in which he had to contend with a switch from the Brisbane Broncos and also ongoing ankle issues, he is refocusing on the running game that once had him being considered the fastest man in the NRL.

As for posting a quicker time than good mate The Fox?

 

Josh Addo-Carr is the game’s fastest man. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty
Josh Addo-Carr is the game’s fastest man. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty

 

"I don't really care about that," Roberts said. "I know Fox, he loves that stuff.

"He really enjoys challenging himself with (the Telstra Tracker) too. But I'm more laid-back. I only run as first as I need to, really.

"If I make a break, I'm always looking over my shoulder to see when the chasers pull up so I can too."

Surely it would be nice to be rated league's fastest man?

"It will be good to test ­myself later in the year," Roberts said. "But right now, the thing I'm focused on most is finetuning my body. I want to make sure I'm ready to go with the Rabbitohs for round one."

Born and raised in Kempsey, Roberts spent two days last week visiting communities around his home town which have been affected by the bushfires.

It was all part of a trip ­organised by NSW Origin coach Brad Fittler.

 

Roberts playing touch with Macleay Vocational College students. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Roberts playing touch with Macleay Vocational College students. Picture: Nathan Edwards

 

The group also spent several hours at Macleay Vocational College, a ''last chance'' high school in Kempsey for disadvantaged youths.

"Great initiative," Roberts said of the college. "I have uncles working at the school, while some of the kids there are also cousins of mine.

"I know some young people struggle in mainstream education. I was one of them, I struggled at school, so it's great they now have the opportunity to go somewhere and improve behaviour, attendance, stuff like that."

On the bushfires, Roberts said: "A lot of my family and friends have been affected so it was important for me to come back and show some love.

"There are people here who have lost everything … homes gone, all their photos, they have nothing.

"I can't imagine that happening to my family, or how damaging that would be. So even if we can just get out and put some smiles on faces, every little bit helps."