The secret meeting that could deliver James Roberts to Wests Tigers

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This is the moment that could resurrect the playing career of James Roberts.

Wests Tigers officials held a secret meeting with Roberts at a Concord cafe to discuss the prospect of joining the joint-venture outfit. The Herald obtained pictures of Roberts meeting with Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe and football general manager Adam Hartigan just as the club learned it had missed out on the signature of Storm star Josh Addo-Carr for 2021.

James Roberts was in a secret meeting with Tigers officials.

Roberts managed only 18 NRL appearances in two years in his second stint at South Sydney as injuries and off-field issues conspired against him. The former Titans, Broncos and Panthers back hasn’t played since South Sydney’s round-six loss to Newcastle in July.

At his best, the man dubbed ‘Jimmy the Jet’ is one of the most electrifying stars in the game, a speedster who took out Dally M centre of the year honours in 2015.

However, he struggled with life in isolation during the COVID-19 lockdown, missing the structure and camaraderie that training provides. The Kempsey product, who checked himself into a rehabilitation clinic this year for anxiety and depression, believes he is ready to again deal with the demands of professional football.

The Tigers are seeking to add strike to their back line and believe Roberts could be a bargain buy if he can recapture something akin to his best form. The club is also in the mix for the services of Penrith playmaker Matt Burton, although rivals including Canterbury and Melbourne are also circling.

Former South Sydney Rabbitohs centre James Roberts meets with Wests Tigers officials Adam Hartigan and Justin Pascoe to discuss his playing future.

The Tigers also haven’t given up hope of luring Addo-Carr for 2022, although the heads of agreement only applied if he was shifting there immediately. ‘The Fox’ is widely regarded as the game’s best winger but has expressed a desire to shift into the No.1 jersey and earn the ‘fullback money’ that comes with the move.

The Tigers had inserted a clause in their initial deal that dictated how much Addo-Carr would be paid based on which position he plays. If he played more than half a season at fullback, he would be paid a salary commensurate with the role. The unique clause, believed to be the first of its kind, is likely to feature in any future negotiations between the parties.

Should Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith retire as expected, some of the money the club saves could be used to upgrade Addo-Carr’s reported $375,000 salary for next year.

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