Troubled NRL star James Roberts has reunited with coach Wayne Bennett at league-leading South Sydney after winning a release from the Brisbane Broncos.
The 2018 NSW State of Origin centre was released from the remainder of his Broncos contract on Wednesday afternoon, with CEO Paul White citing compassionate grounds.
White said Roberts had requested a move from the club, indicating a strong desire to return home to Sydney with his partner and two young children.
“While we are disappointed to lose James, we understand his position – it wasn’t in the best interests of the club to stand in the way of a player who has expressed a honest and strong desire to return home,” White said.
“We’ve always supported James since he arrived at our club, and we have continued to work really hard over recent months to keep him at the Broncos.
“He has gone through tough times and great times with us. He has had two children and represented his state while being a Bronco.”
Almost immediately, Souths issued its own statement announcing Roberts would rejoin it for the next two-and-a-half seasons.
Rabbitohs sign James Roberts immediately for the next two-and-a-half seasons!
— South Sydney Rabbitohs 🐰 (@SSFCRABBITOHS) May 29, 2019
Rabbitohs general manager of football Shane Richardson said Roberts would have the ideal opportunity to put his career back on track playing under Bennett.
“James is an immense talent, a player capable of representing his state and country under the right guidance, and we feel that James can return to his best football under Wayne,” he said.
Dogged by off-field incidents during his career, Roberts, a South Sydney junior, played 10 games in the top grade for the Rabbitohs in 2011 but was released to play with Penrith in 2013.
The Panthers moved him on and he played two seasons with the Gold Coast before moving to Brisbane under Bennett in 2016.
There had been numerous reports this season that Roberts had fallen out with Bennett’s replacement at Red Hill, Anthony Seibold.
He was dropped to the Broncos’ Queensland Cup feeder club, Wynnum-Manly, last weekend.
“I’m really excited to be coming back to Souths and playing under Wayne again,” Roberts said.
“There are some great players at this club and I can’t wait to get into training and get back on the field.”
He will be available for Souths’ round 13 game against Newcastle.