Roberts aims to bring down family's best

Scott Bailey
James Roberts will line up in his State of Origin debut opposite cousin, Greg Inglis

There was a time when James Roberts was the beneficiary of Greg Inglis' attacking brilliance.

Long lost cousins from Kempsey who grew up years apart, the two were first united at South Sydney in 2011 when at differing points of their careers.

Inglis was finding his feet at a new club after Melbourne's salary cap saga. Yet to move to fullback, they tasked him with making the Rabbitohs a force again from the day of his arrival.

Roberts was battling far more personal demons. He would be sacked by the Rabbitohs the following year after a string of dramas and later find himself living out of a car.

But on the field, the pair proved a dangerous force on Souths' left edge. At age 18 and in just his second game, Roberts had his first NRL try against Cronulla when Inglis bust through inside his own half and put him over.

"I always remember that one," Roberts said.

"He's a great role model. Around Souths he used to look after me a little bit but I did my own thing."

Roberts, now 25, can lay claim to one of the best bloodlines in Origin history.

He and his extended family have crossed for 436 tries in 900 NRL games and 19 more in Origin.

From uncle Amos Roberts to cousins Anthony Mundine, Tyrone Roberts, Brian and Albert Kelly and many more, the connections mostly from northern NSW have left their touch on the NRL for decades.

But it will be one of Roberts' own family that will set out to shatter his dream Origin debut next Wednesday night when he marks up directly against Inglis for just the second time in his career.

And Inglis' power and pace in the lead up to his own maiden first-grade try will serve as a reminder of just how dangerous his opposite can be.

"He's one of the greats if not one of the best centres to play the game. In my opinion he's the best," Roberts said.

"And especially in the Origin arena, it's going to be tough.

"I've got my hands full so I'm just looking forward to getting one over him next Wednesday."

The MCG series opener shapes as one of the most exciting attacking Origins in memory and the cousins' battle sits at the centre of that.

So for all the questions over the Blues' defence, Inglis is also wary of how dangerous Roberts can be with ball in hand.

"James is called Jet for a reason," Inglis said.

"A couple of weeks ago it looked like he was playing under-10s running around against the Roosters.

"They picked great outside backs, they are all quick, they are all fast and Jimmy is a great player. There is no doubt about that. We will have to produce our best game."