Wayne Bennett has been winning the mind games.
Wayne Bennett has been winning the mind games.

Bennett-Seibold at war over star

BRISBANE coach Anthony Seibold has issued a 'hands off' to rival NRL clubs as noise continues around James Roberts' potential move to South Sydney.

The centre has been linked with a return to the Rabbitohs - where he began his career in 2011 but was sacked a year later - to replace the retired Greg Inglis and reunite with coach Wayne Bennett.

Bennett reiterated on Wednesday that he had not been in contact with the livewire NSW Origin star, who has struggled with an achilles injury at Brisbane this year.

Seibold confirmed Roberts would start against the Rabbitohs on Thursday night and admits he is a little confused by all the talk.

"That's an interesting one - I got told that before, that there's been some stuff in the media about Jimmy - but he's not come to see me," Seibold said.

"He signed a contract for next year and it's not like Kodi (Nikorima's) situation, where there's an option in his favour (to move clubs for the 2020 season).

"So clubs shouldn't be talking to Jimmy, if they are."

Roberts has battled an injury this season while he was also photographed being carried out of a private party the night of a 25-24 loss to St George Illawarra.

James Roberts reportedly wants out.
James Roberts reportedly wants out.

The speedster apologised and was not punished any further as he continues a rehabilitation program.

Kotoni Staggs has impressed when given the chance to fill the void at centre, but Seibold denied Roberts was on the outer at Red Hill.

"Jimmy's going to start in the centres tomorrow night, he's under contract for the next year-and-a-bit and until someone tells me otherwise that's what I expect him to see out," he said.

Meanwhile, Bennett has praised Kodi Nikorima for "standing up for himself" as the Brisbane No. 7 considers an immediate NRL move to the Warriors.

Seibold has given the halfback a leave of absence to ponder the switch and also recover from a calf niggle, meaning he misses Thursday's clash with Bennett's South Sydney.

The Warriors were keen on the crafty ball-runner from 2020 and beyond and have reportedly offered Nikorima a $500,000 per season deal until the end of 2022.

Anthony Seibold is already a man under fire.
Anthony Seibold is already a man under fire.

He is poised to start in Auckland sooner than that though, with a mid-season transfer an option if the Broncos and Nikorima's management agree to terms.

Seibold conceded on Wednesday that he couldn't guarantee Nikorima's future at the club beyond 2020, while at the same time backing Tom Dearden ahead of the 18-year-old's debut against the Rabbitohs.

Nikorima, 25, has been in the Broncos' system since he was 12 and his former coach Bennett said he was pleased to see the New Zealand Test half take a stand.

"I thought he showed a lot of courage to do that; it's easy to go with the flow sometimes," Bennett said of Nikorima's decision to test the market.

"Kodi's someone that I had a lot to do with. Particularly his development, I was there for four years with him and I rate him very highly.

"I'm pleased he's strong enough to stand up for himself."

A threat off the bench when they came within one tackle of the 2015premiership, Nikorima has copped constant scrutiny since taking the No. 7 jersey full time last season.

Sean O'Sullivan, Tanah Boyd and Cory Paix are other young halves in the pipeline at Red Hill.

News Corp Australia


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