James Roberts runs onto the ball at training. Photo: AAP Image/Dave Hunt
James Roberts runs onto the ball at training. Photo: AAP Image/Dave Hunt

Red hot centres to face off in Blues audition

BRONCOS flyer James Roberts believes he will not be out of his depth in State of Origin as he braces for a showdown with his potential NSW centre partner, Roosters sensation Latrell Mitchell.

The latest instalment in the Mitchell-Roberts rivalry will continue on Friday night when the classy centres square off at Suncorp Stadium.

Roberts is haunted by Mitchell's magic. The Roosters whiz-kid famously trampled Roberts in the NRL finals last year, scoring the last-minute try which broke Brisbane's hearts 24-22 in a pulsating playoffs game.

Eight months later, NSW coach Brad Fittler is seriously considering a Mitchell-Roberts centre alliance for Origin I and the Broncos speed machine is relishing the prospect of a sky-blue debut.

"It would mean a lot to play for NSW, it's a lifetime goal," Roberts said.

Latrell Mitchell presents a major challenge for James Roberts.
Latrell Mitchell presents a major challenge for James Roberts.

"I think I'm good enough for Origin, but whether I am picked is up to Brad Fittler.

"At the start of the year he (Fittler) got in touch with me. He wanted to catch up and see how I'm going.

"It (being picked for Origin) would be a good box to tick but, for now, I'm focused on the Broncos and my personal form."

Roberts has been one of Brisbane's most consistent players this season in a side languishing in ninth with a 5-5 win-loss record.

James Roberts has been one of the Broncos best players this season.
James Roberts has been one of the Broncos best players this season.

The 25-year-old has four tries, four try assists and five line-breaks from Brisbane's opening 10 games.

He has also amassed 41 tackle busts, six fewer than Mitchell, the rangy centre likened in style to Maroons ace Greg Inglis.

Fittler will be watching the Roberts-Mitchell duel with interest and the Broncos centre admits his Roosters rival has bragging rights.

"I think I still have his handprint on my chest from last year," said Roberts, recalling Mitchell's superb solo try to snatch victory.

"He is very tall, very strong and has some speed as well.

James Roberts at Red Hill training this week.
James Roberts at Red Hill training this week.

"He will be looking to have a big one. I have my hands full this week.

"I am not worried about NSW selection this week. If it happens down the track, it happens."

Roberts was shifted from right to left centre last week against Manly to accommodate Jack Bird, but he returns to familiar territory on Friday to mark Mitchell.

"Right centre is my preferred spot," he said.

"I'm back at right centre. Jack is taking a week off to get his sternum right so I'll shift back to the right.

"I'm not scoring as many tries this season but I'm trying to work on my defence.

"It's slowly paying off doing the extras at training."



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