Bennett backs Roberts ahead of NRL derby

The fallout over James Roberts’ NRL defection won’t go away.

Wayne Bennett argues the strike centre was right to leave a “deceitful” Gold Coast and claims the Titans are now jealous of Brisbane as a result.

A target was already on Roberts’ back as he prepared to meet the Titans for the first time since his controversial off-season departure in Friday night’s NRL derby on the Gold Coast.

And it seems Bennett has made sure it stays there with his passionate defence of the lightning quick three-quarter.

The master coach on Thursday endorsed Roberts’ decision to turn his back on the Titans and link with arch rivals Brisbane over an off-season contract forgery bungle.

Last November it emerged a senior Gold Coast staff member copied Roberts’ signature on a re-worked contract clause.

His defection ruffled feathers at the Titans. Veteran Greg Bird even claimed his once troubled teammate had used the botch-up as a convenient excuse to leave the rebuilding club for grand finalists Brisbane after the Titans had “turned his career around”.

But according to Bennett: “It wasn’t James’ fault what happened.

“If you had the situation he had, we would have all walked away from our contracts – you would take that opportunity.

“It was pretty deceitful what happened, he was affected by that.”

Titans coach Neil Henry had the right to be the most disgruntled after Roberts cheekily claimed in the pre-season he’d learned more in his first two weeks under Bennett than he had in two years at the Gold Coast.

Henry was still not impressed when reminded of Roberts’ comment on Tuesday.

“Jimmy has a habit of saying the first thing that comes into his head and that was an example,” he said.

Bennett could empathise with a frustrated Henry over Roberts’ departure – at first.

However, the Brisbane master coach then claimed the Titans’ discontent came from jealousy.

“It hurts a bit. You bring a guy through, you work hard with them to get them where they are, you get through the difficult moments (and they leave),” Bennett said.

“I can understand Neil’s position with it.”

But Bennett added: “A bit of envy and jealousy comes into all that as well because you are envious he is not there anymore.

“And you are jealous of what he can bring and you’d like to have it in your team.”

Roberts will chime into a full strength Broncos backline after Queensland hopeful Corey Oates (shoulder), Jordan Kahu (shoulder) and Jack Reed (eye) were cleared of injury.

Kahu raised eyebrows when he emerged at training on Thursday wearing a neck brace but Bennett said it was “just for show”.

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