Written by Callum Walker
Progressing through the St Helens academy, James Roby has played all of his career at the Lancashire club.
Debuting in 2004 at the age of 18, Roby played his 500th career game at the weekend, having scored 107 tries and kicking one goal and even one drop-goal in 436 appearances for boyhood club Saints.
Roby won his first pieces of silverware in 2006 as he helped Saints win the domestic treble. Saints beat Huddersfield in the Challenge Cup Final 42-12 and then overcame Hull FC in the Grand Final 26-4. It was truly a breakthrough year for the hooker as he became a tremendous understudy to first-choice number nine Keiron Cunningham.
The tenacious dummy-half runner added two more Challenge Cup winning medals in 2007 and 2008 as Saints triumphed at Wembley three years in a row. Since 2006, only one more Super League title has been forthcoming for Roby and Saints.
Despite St Helens appearing in five Grand Finals in a row between 2007 and 2011, they lost all five to Leeds (four) and Wigan (one) before finally breaking their Old Trafford hoodoo in 2014. Roby was instrumental in the latter, steering his side to a 14-6 victory against arch-rivals Wigan and winning the Harry Sunderland trophy in the process.
Roby also has one World Club Challenge success under his belt against Brisbane Broncos in 2007. Individually, the hooker has been included in six Super League Dream Teams and won the most prestigious individual accolade available in 2007 as he scooped up the Man of Steel. Roby was again shortlisted for the Man of Steel in 2018 as he enjoyed a resurgence in form as he captained St Helens for the first year in his career.
Roby’s form over his career so far has been nothing short of sublime; he is a workhorse – the definition of a team player – yet he is also one of the most effective dummy-half runners in the game. No wonder then that he has won seven Great Britain and 31 England caps – scoring one try and five tries for the sides respectively. Roby is a perfect role model for youngsters – he puts the hours in on the training field and it shows.
Even at the age of 31 – after a two-year absence from the national side – Roby earned an England call-up for the 2017 World Cup after playing a key role in Saints’ remarkable transformation under Justin Holbrook. Roby is a class act – on and off the field – and, frighteningly, he still has many years ahead of him aged just 34.
Despite Saints coming up short in both the Challenge Cup semi-final and the semi-final play-offs in 2018, they were a force to be reckoned with once more in 2019 with Roby at the forefront of this charge for silverware.
In fact, although Saints fell short in the Challenge Cup final, they finally lifted the Super League Grand Final trophy for the first time in five seasons, triumphing over Salford 23-6 as well as securing the League Leaders’ Shield in consecutive years.
During the 2019 season, Roby signed a deal that would take him through to the end of the 2021 season. And, in true fashion, the number nine seems destined to play on beyond that.