James Roby ranks alongside Australia’s Cameron Smith as one of the greatest hookers in world rugby league and should be immortalised with a statue at St Helens.
That’s the view of fellow Saints great and the club’s assistant coach Paul Wellens, with Roby poised to surpass Kevin Sinfield as Super League’s all-time record appearance maker.
Roby will play in his 455th Super League game for Saints this weekend, and his former team-mate Wellens says there has been no better hooker in the world throughout his career.
“He’s been the best hooker in the world at points,” Wellens told Love Rugby League.
“He won the Man of Steel in 2007 and has probably had 10 seasons better than that one. He has been the best hooker in the world alongside Cameron Smith. If he had played in the NRL he would have been considered right up there alongside Smith.”
Paul Wellens: Give James Roby a statue
Champions Saints already have a statue of the club’s other legendary hooker outside their ground. And Wellens would not be surprised to see Roby awarded that honour too.
“It is highly likely,” he adds on this week’s Love Rugby League Podcast.
“Keiron Cunningham made his debut in 1994 so we have had the best hooker in Super League for nearly 30 years. Two phenomenal players and two phenomenal people. I don’t think anybody would have any complaints if there was another statue alongside Keiron.
“What they have done for this club has been amazing. They are two people I hold in the highest regard and two legends of the club. They are two of the greats. In the modern era they have been up there with the very best.”
Mental toughness the key to Roby’s success
Wellens believes one of the secret’s of Roby’s remarkable longevity is his mental strength. Roby channelled the pain of five losing Grand Finals into this dominant run of success in the twilight of his career.
“He is the most mentally resilient person that I have ever come across in the sport,” Wellens added.
“He is the best sufferer you could find. By that I mean when the game gets tough it can find a lot of players out but that is when he is at his best. His achievements are spectacular but I’m still not surprised because he always has something left in him.
“I’ve never seen a group of players here at St Helens as in awe of one player as much as this group are of Robes. The players are motivated to perform for him because of what he has achieved for the club.
“You hear someone like Jack Welsby talking about wanting to be like James Roby and that is hugely powerful. Lewis Dodd too looks at Roby as an example of how to behave, how to act, how to perform.
“Roby won’t play here forever. However, the impact and legacy that he will leave behind will stand the test of time.”
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