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Redcliffe Dolphins hooker Michael Roberts this week against Tweed Heads brings up his 150th first grade game for the club. Rugby League was not his original sport of choice he gave up a promising soccer career to try his hand at Rugby League. He made the Queensland under 16?s squad for the national titles as a centre midfielder. ?I didn?t play Rugby League for the first time until I was year 11 at St.Pats. ?The atmosphere was so good that I ended up giving soccer away and played school league and under 17?s for Brothers.?
The 26 year old Redcliffe High school teacher joined the Dolphins in 1997 from Mackay Brothers and played in the Anthony Griffin coached colt?s team which swept all before them to win the premiership. It was a good year for Roberts who went onto to win the colt?s player of the year at the annual presentation night. He was also in the Dolphins Development squad that year with future NRL stars Craig Frawley, Dane Carlaw and Brad Watts along with future Queensland Cup players Nathan Herbener, Trent Purdon, Ben Jones, Matt Dux and Robbie Maller.
Roberts?s first game in first grade was against Gold Coast Vikings at Dolphin Oval in May 1998 at five-eighth. The Dolphins side that day was Adam Mogg, Ricky Hewinson, George Wilson, Ben Roedder, Barry Denduck, Michael Roberts, Peter Robinson, Grant Cleal, Richard Ackerman, Troy Lindsay, Cameron Lewis, James Hinchey, Chris Essex, Paul Woodward, Wayne Miller, Troy Mitchell and Cameron Hurren.
Roberts?s elevation to first grade from Colts came in an unusual manner. Anthony Singleton, the first choice five-eighth fell by the wayside with a career ending shoulder injury, Deon Bird then had the spot only to join the Adelaide Rams a month after joining the Dolphins. Coach John Boxsell went for Roberts to fill the vacant number 6 jersey. ?I was surprised when Box rang me on the Monday night and said that I would be in first grade. I had played one game at five-eighth in Colts and the rest at halfback? recalls Roberts.
The 1999 season proved to be an even better one for the Mackay product. He thrived under the coaching of Alex Corvo and went on to be named the Courier Mail and Sunstate Queensland Cup player of the year and for the second year in succession won the Ian ?Bunny? Pearce trophy as the Club?s leading points scorer. A grand final loss to Burleigh put a dampener on the year but an end of season trip to England with team-mate Adam Mogg as members of the Australian tertiary side made it a very successful year for Roberts only in his third year of Rugby League.
The year 2000 isn?t one Roberts looks back on too fondly a shoulder injury at the wrong time of the year cost him a chance at premiership glory. ?I was out injured for a while with a shoulder injury and come back against Toowoomba in the major semi-final which we got pumped in and I was one of several dropped for the preliminary final? he said. History shows the Dolphins went on to win the Queensland Cup and Roberts sitting in the grand stand swore never to be watching another Redcliffe first grade grand final from the sidelines while he was still playing in the red and white.
In 2001 Roberts struck back playing good footy to once again win the Sunstate Queensland Cup player of the year award but also breaking into senior representative football for the first time playing for both the Brisbane and Queensland Residents sides. He was also named the South East Division?s representative player of the year. But yet once again on a sour note with the Dolphins going down to Toowoomba in a grand final thriller at Dolphin Oval in front of 10,000 fans. ?I still don?t like watching that game, there are a couple of things I wish I could have done a bit better that day? he said ?But it just wasn?t our day, Casey McGuire scored on the bell next to the posts and Damien Quinn converted to win the game, that was the worst I ever felt? Roberts said.
But 2002 was going to be a different story with the Dolphins dominating most of the season on the back of a tough forward pack and two skilful halves Mick Roberts and Shane Perry. ?That was a good year, Fridgey (Shane Perry) and I just clicked and worked well together? he said. Mick represented Brisbane again and was unlucky not to retain his Queensland jersey. But he had bigger fish to fry he wanted that elusive first grade premiership which had eluded him twice before.
After an extra time victory over Ipswich in the major semi-final courtesy of a Shane Perry field goal all seemed on track for Roberts to achieve his goal. But would fate stand in his way again. The night before the grand final Roberts became ill and woke up sick on grand final day. So sick the doctor wanted to rule him out of the game. Coach Neil Wharton and his brains trust were in conversation and only minutes from grabbing Dane Campbell out of the Reserve grade grand final in progress to take Roberts spot when Mick came in and said ?I want to play I won?t let any one down?. Wharton was happy with that and Roberts played a starring role in the Dolphins demolition of the Ipswich Jets.
The following year Roberts became captain of the Dolphins after Luke Scott had to return to Lismore to run the family business. ?Unfortunately Cranky (Scott) had to go home to be with his family but I looked at it and still do as a tremendous honour to captain this club?. Both Roberts father Eddie and Uncle Dave played first grade for the Dolphins in the 70?s. ?I really love the club and to captain it especially to a grand final win was just unbelievable, it?s one my greatest achievements and favourite memories? says Roberts. 2003 turned out to be a good year for Roberts, he regained his Brisbane jersey, played his 100th first grade game for the club and also captained them to a premiership win, but storm clouds were on the horizon.
During the next pre-season Roberts lost the captaincy along with it some confidence and he didn?t enjoy the best of seasons. And to top it off the Dolphins missed out on the semi-finals for the first time since 1993. The club decided it was time for a change.
Enter Roberts old mentor from his Colts days Anthony Griffin and a new coaching staff. Despite losing a number of quality players from the previous season the Dolphins are on track to return to the semi-finals. ?The comp is so strong we aren?t guaranteed of anything yet, we have to turn up at our best each week or we could risk missing out again? Roberts warned. Also with a change of coach came a change of position. After being the club?s number one halfback for so many years Coach Griffin decided to move Roberts closer to the action at the hooker position. ?I didn?t think I?d like it but it?s better than I thought it?d be, I am really enjoying it? he said. ?I am still getting used to it, there?s a lot more defence because I?m defending in the middle and getting to dummy half every play can be taxing but I?m getting there.? Roberts said.
As with tradition at the Redcliffe Club when Roberts playing days are over he will have his image etched on the window of the Leagues Club along side the other legends of the club who have played 150 first grade for the Dolphins. When asked about it Roberts replied ?Mate just to be mentioned with some of those guys is an honour, my dad played with some them so I know how good they were. ?I just hope they choose a picture of me with hair? he joked.