An English born South Sydney junior, Roberts joined the Sea Eagles in 1990. He was offered a massive contract for the time and the Bunnies couldnt match the offer he was the most promising forward in the ARL.
He soon lived up to his reputation at Manly and his made his State of Origin and Test debut in 1990. Roberts had everything he was tall and strong with great pace. He combined his ability to offload with crunching defence. He was probably the first 21st centuryâ€? atheletic rugby league forward for those
young whipper snippers out there you could compare Ian Roberts in 1989 to Sonny Bill Williams in 2005.
The semi final series in 1990 produced a block buster of a match at the SFS Manly Vs Brisbane. Manly narrowly lost the game but Roberts badly tore his groin during the game. Any injury which would affect him for the remainder of his career.
He returned to the field the following season and despite on going injuries he was a fantastic contributor to Manlys successful years in the early nineties.
Roberts was plagued by constant innuendo about his sexuality during this period he owned small business in Newtown and live near King Street. This area is well known for its happyâ€? (read GAY) lifestyle but this was always denied by the club and Ian himself.
I recall a humorous rumour of the time was that Ian Roberts was spotted at an Oxford Street party held by well known celebrity Maggie Tabberer. He was in the company of a man called Shane and was on the dance floor with a large salami doing a rather unusual dance. A side note to this was that Shane was in the Eagles mascot suit every weekend at Brookie.
After 100 games for the Eagles, 9 Origins,13 tests and a losing Grand Final appearance in 1995, he left the club after signing with Super League. He sat out the 1996 season due to injury and his S/L allegiances before playing out the remainder of his career with the North Queensland Cowboys.
In 1996 he outed himself and he became the first openly gay footballer in a major competition in Australia, confirming all the rumours that had circulated during his career at the Sea Eagles. Most Manly supporters put these rumours down to disgruntled South Sydney players and management who were still seething that he left their club and played for the silver tails.
He has recently remerged as an actor, completing a degree at NIDA while also appearing as a dancer on Channel 7s Dancing with the Stars programme.
Ian Roberts pretty good but could have been a legend.