Broncos should be patient on James Roberts deal
WHAT'S the best way to tackle the fastest man in rugby league? Slowly.
At least in contract talks, the slow way shapes as the best way when the Broncos sit down to talk turkey with their enigmatic flyer James Roberts.
Roberts' manager is keen to nail down a new contract for next season and beyond.
But while the overheated player market is spitting out contracts fatter than an overfed rhino, the challenge for Brisbane is to hold its nerve and, for a while, its purse strings.
One outstanding game and a couple of months of "solid citizen" behaviour do not make a winter.
Let him work for it. If he gets there, on and off the field, then everybody - the club, the man and the fans - are better off.
If he doesn't then the decision to hold fire was even more sensible.
Roberts lifted noticeably for the Broncos with a three-try effort against the Titans on Friday as his old club yet again brought out the best in him.
His form in his debut season with the Broncos last year was far inferior to his rampaging efforts at the Titans but he seems to be improving.
Roberts' highlights reel has always been eye-catching but at times his form seemed like a meal full of exotic sauces yet lacking meat and potatoes.
The contract market has gone so mad that any off-contract star who catches the eye seems to wake up the next morning with their manager's inbox flooded with "meet me for coffee" emails from clubs.
But hopefully the Broncos will resist the temptation to jump in and quickly re-sign Roberts who, after a number of alcohol-related dramas, was summoned to Sydney this year where NRL boss Todd Greenberg told him he would be deregistered if there is another offence.
By keeping him lean, mean and keen and continuing his rehabilitation off the field, which includes a booze ban, the Broncos might just get the best out of him.
Of course you run the risk of losing him to another club but if that's the case so be it.
With Jack Bird coming next season there is already a ready-made replacement.
Last Friday Roberts looked a desperate man and played that way.
On one occasion he flicked a crazy pass into touch but that was all part of a player trying to produce a sizzling performance.
You'd love him to retain a similar mindset for the rest of the season.
The Broncos need a revved-up Roberts to fire right through the draining State of Origin period and if he does that then he should earn a deal for next year.