James Roby hits 500 games for St Helens: ‘He is undeniably one of the games greats’ | Rugby League News

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Take a look at James Roby's career highlights as he prepares to make his 500th appearance for St Helens.

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Take a look at James Roby’s career highlights as he prepares to make his 500th appearance for St Helens.

Take a look at James Roby’s career highlights as he prepares to make his 500th appearance for St Helens.

Since making his debut against Widnes in 2004, the sight of James Roby in the red and white vee is one St Helens fans have become used to. On Friday, they will see him wearing that jersey for the 500th time against Leeds Rhinos, cementing himself as one of the greats of the Super League era.

Roby’s career is one in which the statistics speak for themselves, with his 18-year run for St Helens presenting a list of individual and team accolades that any rugby league player would be envious of.

With five Grand Finals, four Challenge Cups, five Super League Dream Team appearances and one Harry Sunderland Trophy, the youngest ever Man of Steel winner is one of the most decorated players of the Super League era and as he enters into his 500th appearance for St Helens against Leeds Rhinos on Friday, it is a testament to his character that he has been so consistently at the top of his game for so long.

Despite such high honours, when speaking to those who have played with him, worked with him or lined up against him, they all highlight the one aspect of Roby they admire more than anything else: his humbleness.

Paul Wellens: To play alongside him is an honour

To understand Roby’s longevity, you have to first understand the breakthrough he made as a youngster, which no one understands more than his former team-mate and current assistant coach of St Helens and England, Paul Wellens.

Wellens played with Roby from 2004 until 2015 and believes the Saints captain is the most “mentally resilient” team-mate he played with in his 20-year career.

“I have had the pleasure of being at Robes’s side for the past 20 years since he first came into the St Helens first-team environment,” said Wellens.

“To play alongside him was a huge honour, and he is quite simply one of rugby league’s best players in any era.

“He has a no-nonsense approach to the game and just gets done what needs to be done.

“I have never come across a player as mentally resilient as he is and when you combine that with his undoubtable ability, it becomes clear how he is undeniably one of the game’s greats.”

Super League Grand Final 2014: James Roby lifts the Super League trophy alongside Nathan Brown and club captain Paul Wellens

Super League Grand Final 2014: James Roby lifts the Super League trophy alongside Nathan Brown and club captain Paul Wellens

After retiring from professional rugby in 2015, Wellens has been involved with the St Helens coaching staff and has said it has only made him appreciate Roby more as a leader.

Wellens said: “Since retiring, I have had the pleasure of being on the coaching staff as he has taken over the captaincy and led the club through one of its most successful ever periods.

“The club’s recent success has been based on hard work, a selfless attitude and an accountability to reflect on performances both positive and negative.

“Robes leads by example more than any other leader I have come across, he displays all these attributes and he is an inspiration to all at the club who have had the pleasure of working with him on a daily basis.

“He has achieved and continues to achieve so much and he does it with such class, great ability and work ethic but with a humility that endears him to us all.”

Justin Holbrook: He is the most reliable player I have ever coached

Celebration: James Roby lifts the Challenge Cup trophy for St. Helens in 2021, on the club's first win at Wembley since 2008.

Celebration: James Roby lifts the Challenge Cup trophy for St. Helens in 2021, on the club’s first win at Wembley since 2008.

Roby has worked under 10 different head coaches at his hometown club, including Justin Holbrook, who coached St Helens in 2019 when they secured their first Grand Final victory in five years.

Despite working with hundreds of players both in the Super League and the NRL, Holbrook believes that there is no one as “reliable” as the Saints captain.

“It is a pleasure to get to talk about James Roby,” says Holbrook.

“He is the easiest player to work with as a coach.

“His competitive and tough nature is hidden by how humble he is as a man.

“His leadership style is selfless and his consistency in how he trains prepares for, and plays games is what makes him so great.”

A look back as St Helens edged out Catalans Dragons 12-10 to win Super League's Grand Final in 2021.

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A look back as St Helens edged out Catalans Dragons 12-10 to win Super League’s Grand Final in 2021.

A look back as St Helens edged out Catalans Dragons 12-10 to win Super League’s Grand Final in 2021.

Making 60 tackles per game has become business as usual for Roby, and it is something that the ex-St Helens coach remembers with fondness.

“It doesn’t matter if he is defending for all 80 minutes of a game, he will do it the right way with hard work and honesty.

“Robes never asks another player to do something that he wouldn’t do, and I have never heard him put another team-mate down or have a negative word to say about them even in the heat of a game.

“All these qualities are why James Roby is the most reliable player I have ever coached.

“I am so happy for Robes in what he has achieved so far and he deserves all the accolades he gets even though he would be happy not to get any, he just wants to get on with it and win the next game for his town of St. Helens.”

Sean O’Loughlin: He is a world-class player and a world-class bloke

James Roby takes a tackle during the Four Nations, with Sean O'Loughlin backing up the England hooker

James Roby takes a tackle during the Four Nations, with Sean O’Loughlin backing up the England hooker

The praise for Roby isn’t just limited to those who have played with him at club level, with former Wigan captain and Roby’s England team-mate, Sean O’Loughlin, describing his playing style as “flawless”.

Although O’Loughlin broke into Wigan’s first-team ranks a few years before Roby was starring for St Helens, he remembers coming up against the St Helens hooker in the derby and being impressed with his work off the bench.

“I thought when Robes came on the scene behind Keiron Cunningham, he was a couple of years below me and came on as a kid but you could tell he was the real deal,” says the former Wigan and England captain.

“I saw he was a good competitor but his engine is what stood out and he didn’t put a foot wrong.

“He was so good at being consistent throughout the game and then not even looking like he had played.”

After competing as the fiercest of rivals, O’Loughlin and Roby then lined up alongside each other for both England and Great Britain, the experience of playing with Roby living up to what O’Loughlin had hoped.

James Roby in action alongside Sam Tomkins for England

James Roby in action alongside Sam Tomkins for England

Recalling their time together on international duty, O’Loughlin said: “Even when you play against people, you get a feel of what they are like and I got a feeling he (Roby) was a good person and team-mate.

“Some players are quality on a club level and it is a privilege to get to know them and play with them for England and he was everything I thought he would be on the international stage: unassuming in the way he went about his business but with a level of skill that goes under the radar.

“His defensive efforts and tackling is always talked about but what isn’t always talked about is the way he is always in the right place at the right time supporting people and his passing skill and technical ability is world-class and he is a world-class bloke.

“What he has done is unprecedented and to play 500 games for St. Helens with such consistency and durability, I tip my hat to him.”

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April 1, 2022, 7:30pm

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Tommy Makinson: Roby is the greatest this game has seen

Three-peat: St. Helens captain, James Roby, lifts the 2021 Super League trophy for the third year in a row alongside his team-mates Jonny Lomax, Morgan Knowles, Lachlan Coote, Mark Percival, Tommy Makinson and Alex Walsmley

Three-peat: St. Helens captain, James Roby, lifts the 2021 Super League trophy for the third year in a row alongside his team-mates Jonny Lomax, Morgan Knowles, Lachlan Coote, Mark Percival, Tommy Makinson and Alex Walsmley

As he prepares to step out against the Leeds Rhinos at Headingley, Roby’s current St. Helens team-mate, Tommy Makinson, is relishing the opportunity to take to the pitch with the Saints captain in his landmark 500th game on Friday, placing the St Helens No.9 as the best player he has lined up alongside.

“James Roby is the greatest player I’ve ever had the chance to play with,” says Makinson.

“The best thing about him is he is the most humble and pleasant bloke you wish to meet.

“He has time for everyone and is always there for anyone who needs him.

“I love lining up behind him as we walk onto the pitch and seeing his name in front of me. I think straight away it puts me and the team at ease knowing he is in your team and he has got your back.

“He is the greatest this game has seen and it will be a pleasure to share the field with him in his 500th.”

Catch all the action between Leeds Rhinos and St Helens on Sky Sports from 7.45pm on Friday, April 1.

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