Kent: Why Broncos and Blues grounded ‘The Jet’
It might not be right to say James Roberts has run out of last chances, talent always finds more, but his last chances are getting fewer.
Roberts was named on Brisbane's extended bench, No.19, next stop purgatory.
The name on the team list masked the fact Roberts trained with Wynnum-Manly on Monday and was more than likely headed for the Seagulls this weekend in the Queensland Cup.
Except the Seagulls play the PNG Hunters this weekend in Port Moresby and it was discovered Roberts' visa has expired.
The Jet has been grounded.
It was all meant to be a stalling exercise anyway, at least until South Sydney got their ducks in a row to coax Roberts out of Brisbane.
Broncos coach Anthony Seibold did not dismiss the idea when he talked on NRL360 Monday night, simply saying any release was a discussion he would need to have with others.
But it appears South Sydney's interest is dwindling. One more last chance has disappeared.
The backroom wrestle between coach Wayne Bennett, of the pro-Roberts faction, and football general manager Shane Richardson, who leans the other way, seems to have been won by Richardson with a rear naked choke.
Where it leaves Roberts is nowhere. Can he mend the relationship with Seibold?
It appears unlikely.
He is one of the game's most sublimely talented players but after stints at three clubs in his first four seasons, with second chances merging into last chances at Souths and Penrith, Roberts seemed to have settled once he got to Brisbane.
The improved reputation came about not necessarily because Roberts changed at Brisbane but more because Brisbane changed around him. Bennett knows one of the truths of rugby league is the special talents, the ones who can do things you can't coach, are often a little different from normal.
Roberts needed space. Enough space that he sometimes erred, but space all the same, and Bennett tolerated it.
Roberts even had several last chances under Bennett, who once even inadvertently let slip that Roberts was treated for a drug problem, before later correcting himself to specify prescription drugs.
It was a rare loose carry from Bennett.
Seibold is a young coach with a concrete ideals. It is easier when you are yet to be burned by failure.
But Seibold's refusal to indulge Roberts has marked a dramatic fall.
As Roberts looks set to go without a game this weekend, 10 rounds into the competition, it's worth remembering that it was round 11 last season, almost a full year, where he circled the Sydney Roosters defence and set off for one of the tries of the season.
The Jet had arrived.
He his reward was NSW's right centre position. It looked like he had finally matured and, with that, arrived.
But how quickly it changes.
A new coach, an injury in a game, and a night out after it …
A photo got distributed on social media of Roberts getting carried out of a party heavily intoxicated. The Broncos smothered the story, saying because he had yet to be formally assessed at the rehab session the next day he had not broken any team protocols.
It was a statement that fooled only those who wanted to be fooled.
And Seibold is no fool.
It shows the speed the game moves. The depth of bad decisions.
Roberts has started just two games since.
The Blues are facing a small crisis at right centre for the fast approaching State of Origin opener and yet Roberts, the incumbent, is not being mentioned.
Heading in to last week Jack Bird had the front running to play right centre. This came after injuries to possible replacements like Tom Trbojevic and Joey Leilua.
Then Bird went down injured and with no standout replacement moving into the slot, Roberts has failed to be selected in place of his injured teammate at club level and looks further away for Origin.
Some wondered whether, given the injury to Bird and the lack of obvious replacement, that Roberts could even be selected for NSW from reserve grade, his lack of selection at club level attributed to a personality clash with Seibold.
NSW fans are talking up a confident game at the moment but Blues coach Brad Fittler is facing a new problem.
His halves are heavily out of form and look unlikely to be chosen.
Luke Keary was considered a given but there comes the emergence of the Souths' pairing Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker.
Fittler has options, aware that sometimes too many options can be just as dangerous as not enough. On top of winning the series Fittler has been loaded with the added job of restoring the Blues' culture.
Together they say Roberts' options are growing fewer by the minute.
That's how it goes with repeated last chances. You never know when the last chance really is the last chance.