Elated Brisbane master coach Wayne Bennett hopes James Roberts becomes a Bronco for life, comparing his surprise new signing with club great Steve Renouf.
And Bennett says Roberts will be given all the time he needs to fill the big shoes left by another legendary Brisbane centre – retired captain Justin Hodges.
Bennett could not hide his delight over Roberts landing in his lap after the reigning Dally M Centre of the Year left the Gold Coast due to an off-season contract forgery bungle.
“It was totally unexpected. It was not part of our plans but we didn’t want to miss that opportunity, we are very grateful,” he said.
Roberts had barely started his first pre-season training session with Brisbane on Monday before Bennett compared him with “The Pearl” Renouf.
“They are all different but he (Roberts) has the qualities that excite people,” Bennett said.
“Steve (Renouf) had those qualities.
“He (Roberts) has got that X factor, it’s God given.
“When it’s 10-all and you are playing a quality team and there is nothing in it, it is people like him that produce that totally unexpected moment.”
Bennett said Roberts would be groomed in the centre vacancy created by another Brisbane great, Hodges.
He expected Roberts to follow in the footsteps of 2015 Broncos revelation Anthony Milford.
“I expect it will take a little time to settle in, but he will be great – he will get there,” Bennett said.
“If it doesn’t happen in week one or week six he will still be in the team.
“We stuck with Anthony (Milford) when everyone was telling us he wasn’t going to be a five-eighth or whatever but he ended up being our best player of the season.
“James will be in the same boat.”
Roberts knocked back offers from South Sydney and the Dragons to sign a two-year deal with Brisbane.
The once troubled 22-year-old is at his fourth NRL club.
“We do see him as a life-contracted player,” Bennett said.
“As we have done with players here in the past once they perform and play to their potential they have no fear about their future.”
Roberts said the chance to play under a “special coach” while embracing the Queensland lifestyle helped make up his mind.
“I intended to do that at the Gold Coast but things didn’t happen the way I planned but I intend to finish off here,” he said.
“Money was never a dilemma.
“It’s the lifestyle and where I am going to be most happy off the field.”
Bennett was unsure how Roberts’ arrival would affect his roster.
Centre Dale Copley’s future is uncertain.