Blues lay claim to league star's origin once and for all
NEW South Wales Rugby League let Greg Inglis slip across the border and into a maroon jersey, but they aren't making the same mistake with Ethan Roberts.
The former South Grafton resident will proudly pull on the NSW Blues jumper when he makes his State of Origin debut in the under-16s curtain-raiser at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on June 5. The parallels between Inglis and Roberts are uncanny.
Roberts has now moved to Queensland to join the Brisbane Broncos feeder program and further his footballing prospects.
But a change in procedure means South Grafton's most promising football talent won't go the same way as Kempsey's world-beater Inglis, whose early career followed a similar path almost a decade ago.
"There is a new form which all the representative players now have to fill out," Ethan's mum Glenda Roberts said.
"It has six questions which determine who will play for what state, with the majority of answers determining the result.
"The questions were things like where you were born, where you played your first rep game, where you spent the majority of your school years and where you played the majority of your football.
"Ethan's score was 5-1 in favour of New South Wales."
Almost a year ago, The Daily Examiner ran a feature on this young league star and the sacrifice his family were about to make to ensure he could pursue his dreams of becoming a top flight player like his father Abby. Since then, Roberts' career has been going from strength to strength, culminating in his selection for the Blues.
"His junior club is listed alongside his name as the South Grafton Rebels, which we were really pleased about," Glenda Roberts said.
"The kids miss Grafton terribly, but Ethan has been playing great football and now his brother Blake has been put into the Gold Coast Titans pathway."
Such has been Roberts impact on the field, legendary Kangaroo and Blues player Brad Fittler was singing his praises after the Indigenous All Stars match in Brisbane in February (see tweet below).
However, the Roberts family feared their decision to move to Brisbane would count against Ethan in terms of selection for a NSW team. "Because he is playing all his football in Queensland now, the NSW selectors just don't see him that often," Roberts said.
"But he got invited to play in the trial game for the NSW team in a 'Possibles vs Probables' match in Sydney last Tuesday.
"And once he got on the field there was no way they could leave him out. It just shows our country kids can stand up to anything the city kids throw at them." Roberts is also the only player in the under-16 NSW Blues line-up from outside the metropolitan area.