Roberts earns shot at league’s best

Please enable Javascript to watch this videoTYRONE Roberts is clearly in no mood to surrender the Newcastle Knights’ No.7 jersey without a fight.
Nanjing Night Net

Two weeks ago, after Roberts was unceremoniously hooked by Knights coach Wayne Bennett and spent the final 11 minutes of the round-21 clash against Brisbane watching from the bench, there was speculation he had played his last game for the immediate future.

Roberts’s replacement, veteran Craig Gower, helped Newcastle conjure up two late tries and an 18-all draw.

It was enough for some to declare Gower had usurped the 22-year-old as Bennett’s first-choice playmaker.

But when Newcastle ran out against Cronulla last weekend, Roberts was in the starting team and Gower’s spot as fresh reserve had been filled by the returning Kurt Gidley.

Possibly that was because Gower was nursing an injury. Perhaps Bennett felt he needed a regular goalkicker in what shaped as a tight game.

Whatever the rationale, Roberts responded with a crucial try in Newcastle’s 18-14 win and an all-round performance that suggested he intends to continue his unbroken streak of 38 games in the top grade for the Knights.

He will hardly have a better chance to underline that message than in the next seven days.

Tomorrow he lines up against Melbourne Storm’s Test halfback, Cooper Cronk.

Six days later he will be in Townsville pitting his skills against North Queensland champion Johnathan Thurston.

If Roberts can break even against the NRL’s two finest playmakers, it can only help his chances of featuring in the big games ahead at the business end of the season.

Asked this week about the challenge of opposing Cronk, Roberts acknowledged the 2012 Clive Churchill medallist was a ‘‘competitor’’ but added: ‘‘Being a young dude, I always want to play against the best, and I’ll do the same against JT and every weekend.’’

Roberts said Newcastle knew what to expect from Cronk tomorrow.

‘‘He’s pretty straightforward. He takes on the line, he’s pretty structured and everyone knows what he’s going to do,’’ Roberts said.

As for the competition provided from within his own club by 35-year-old Gower, Roberts has done his best to ignore it for the past two months.

‘‘As long as I do my job every week, I don’t need to worry about a challenge at the moment,’’ he said.

‘‘Gowy is a good mentor.’’

Newcastle pushed Melbourne in a 16-14 loss at AAMI Park, but the premiers have been in ominous form in their past two games, smashing Canberra 68-4 and then overpowering South Sydney 26-8.

The Knights have lost all four games this season against top-four opposition but should have momentum behind them after their great escape against the Sharks.

As is always the case when they play the Storm, Newcastle’s chances will hinge on their ability to handle Melbourne’s swarming defence.

‘‘It all starts in the middle of the field, trying to slow their big boys down,’’ Storm lock Ryan Hinchcliffe said on the club’s website. ‘‘Big [Kade] Snowden and guys like Jeremy Smith, who are very strong and dangerous players.

‘‘If we can slow them down, that will take [Danny] Buderus out of the game a little bit, and also Jarrod Mullen’s kicking game is a huge strong point for them.

‘‘We’ve got to be really tough in the centre of the field and that will limit guys like Darius Boyd and Dane Gagai, who are really dangerous when they give us space.’’

Tyrone Roberts

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation