AFTER AN injury-ravaged 2016, Ben Roberts is determined to make an impact with Castleford Tigers this season.
The former Canterbury, Parramatta and Melbourne stand-off was restricted to just five games last year, but returned to action in Tigers’ pre-season defeat at Wakefield Trinity two days ago.
Roberts, who joined Tigers in 2015, showed flashes of brilliance during his debut campaign – including a drop goal on the final play of the game to seal a famous 25-24 win over St Helens at the Jungle – and his comeback will add to coach Daryl Powell’s impressive array of options in the play-making roles. His return to action has been a long-time coming after a foot problem suffered in the early stages of last year turned out to be far more serious than anyone had suspected.
The 31-year-old played in Tigers’ first four games of 2016, before being sidelined from March to May. He made a comeback in the Magic Weekend win over Warrington Wolves, but suffered a recurrence and missed the rest of the campaign.
“I had 12 weeks off, then I came back and thought I’d be all right to play,” he recalled. “It was the same injury, but actually they didn’t find the crack [in his foot] the first time they scanned it.
“They thought it was just ligaments in my foot and they gave it time to heal itself, then they found the crack. It was a very frustrating season for me personally.
“Not knowing what the injury actually was the first time was pretty frustrating. I wanted to be out there with the boys, then when I finally got out there I re-did it, got scanned and it came back as a lisfrank, which is separation of the bones in the foot.
“It was a bit of an awkward one, I think other than doing your Achilles it’s got to be one of the worst you can probably get.
“Two plates and six screws later that’s done and it’s all good.
“I’m just glad they found it and it’s now been fixed.”
Rangi Chase’s return to Castleford last summer helped fill the gap caused by Roberts’ injury and with both of them fit and raring to go, Tigers have genuine competition for places in a pivotal position.
Roberts, who has played for New Zealand and Tonga, can also fit in at full-back, but another ex-Man of Steel Zak Hardaker is expected to fill that role following Luke Dorn’s departure.
“Those guys have won the highest honour you can in Super League,” Roberts said of Chase and Hardaker.
“I am looking at it as a challenge I am looking forward to.
“They are class players, but I am pretty confident in my own ability and what I can bring to the team as well.
“If I play full-back or stand-off, as long as I am helping the boys out and contributing to the team I am happy.
Roberts is a specialist no6, but said: “Daryl [Powell, Tigers’ coach] has opened my eyes up to being more of a utility player.
“I am enjoying it. One of my strengths is running and obviously at full-back you get a fair bit of space to do that.”
Tigers’ full-time squad will fly to Lanzarote on Thursday to begin a week-long training camp.
Castleford are due to face their dual-registration partners Batley Bulldogs in an away trial game on Friday, January 27 before completing their pre-season campaign away to St Helens two days later.