Whether it’s Suncorp Stadium under lights or good old Bishop Park on a Sunday afternoon, James Roberts remains one of rugby league’s great enigmas.
The Broncos sent the State of Origin him back to play for Wynnum-Manly against Norths in the Intrust Super Cup essentially to see what is in his heart.
Would he fight back or simply surrender to his fate?
They were chasing an exclamation mark but again, the answer was a question mark on an afternoon in which he drew several hundred extra fans through the gate for a healthy crowd of 1200.
Roberts’ first half was very good, the tasty entree to a main course that never quite arrived in his side’s 34-24 victory.
His trademark pace lit up the venue when he sliced through a retreating defensive line like a dolphin spearing through a wave and score a try following through a chip kick, whizzing past defenders as if they were wearing cement shoes.
But we always knew he had pace.
Other notable first half moments included him looking for work by moving to the left side, the quirky sight of him packing in the second row for a scrum and tackling solidly, including once being penalised for being overvigorous.
When he waved his arms like a traffic cop a couple of times organising his teammates it looked as if he was more engaged than in some Broncos games this season.
He was tracking for an eight out of 10 game at halftime but finished around the 6.5 mark after a flat second half. The match drifted away from him and, looking a tad short of condition after recent match practice, he just drifted along with it.
Roberts did what he had to but there was nothing that would have shaken Anthony Seibold’s selection room door off its hinges, especially given the Broncos have won three in a row.
And so his future remains a mystery, even, it appears, to the man himself.
When I asked him after the game whether he would push through his current challenging predicament with the Broncos he was thinking small picture and not giving a lot away.
“Obviously it would be nice to be playing NRL,’’ Roberts said.
“I just have to train hard and keep doing what I’m doing.’’
So does that mean you are going to see out your contract with the Broncos?
“I am just focusing on training hard and trying to get in the top squad. I had not played for three weeks so today I was going to feel it at the end.’’
This time last year Roberts was celebrating his first State of Origin selection and the contrasting fortunes from one year to the next were not lost on him.
“Obviously it hurts a bit not being able to put my hand up for Origin but hopefully an opportunity arises soon.’’
With James Roberts you never know.