Rugby league’s first openly gay player has revealed the torment and guilt he still carries more than 20 years after coming out.
Former Test and NSW State of Origin hardman Ian Roberts, now an actor, is universally regarded as a pioneer and hero among the gay community.
But, at 50, he’s still ashamed for not doing more to save the life of a young friend and HIV carrier and pedophile victim.
But while now happy and content as he pursues a career in Hollywood, after also serving on the NRL judiciary while illiterate, Roberts still hurts for “not stepping up” and helping the police before a teenage lodger in his home was murdered in the 1990s.
In the months before the 15-year-old was murdered, police knocked on Roberts’ door hoping the teenager would provide evidence against his alleged pedophile attacker.
Roberts says his first selfish thoughts at the time were of how the case – revealing his sexuality – would “destroy” his career.
“This is what I live with now,” Roberts told Peter Sterling in an emotional interview on Fox Sports.
“And I don’t ask for anyone’s sympathy or (have) regrets because I’m totally comfortable with what happened now. I can totally get my head around it.
“But for me to go to that point and think about my career when that boy ended up being murdered, left dead in a ditch, it kills, it crushes me.”
Roberts says his coming out in 1994 – which he described as the “worst-kept secret in rugby league” – was a huge relief personally and for his family.
Beforehand, he said his mother and father had stopped going to games because of the abuse their son copped from the crowd.
“My parents never wanted me to come out either but I think it was to their relief too and they understood then why I had to come out,” Roberts said.
“It almost gave them the right to be there and stand up for me.”