Following the conclusion of St.Helens' 2023 Betfred Super League season, Club Captain and legendary Saint, James Roby has now brought the curtain down on a 20-year rugby league playing career. Take a look at just some of the incredible numbers behind The Greatest Of All Time's storied career in the famous Red V shirt.
1 – MAKING HIS DEBUT
It all starts with Game #1, and the former Blackbrook junior made his way through the youth ranks at Saints to make his senior debut on Friday, 19th March 2004 off the bench.
The game was against Widnes at Knowsley Road, where the stewards would not let him park in the car park despite him saying ‘I’m playing tonight’…
2 – WORLD CLUB CHALLENGES
Fast forward from that plucky 18-year-old and the man has been crowned a World Champion – twice.
The first came on the back of that incredible 2006 treble-winning season, when the Saints took on Brisbane Broncos in Bolton winning 18-14 in 2007. Sixteen years later, Roby would lead the Red V into hostile territory against the back-to-back NRL champions Penrith Panthers and secure a historic, seismic win for his second World Club Challenge.
The latter even more impressive given him being 37 years of age, and St.Helens becoming the first English rugby league side to beat an Australian team for the World Title in the summer era of our sport.
43 – INTERNATIONAL MATCHES
Roby made his international debut for Great Britain in 2006, aged just 20. Over the next 15 years he would feature for the GB Lions six more times, and then make 36 appearances for England, playing in the 2013 and 2017 World Cup tournaments, starting in the 2017 final against Australia.
8 – LEAGUE LEADERS’ SHIELDS
A measure of consistency is being the team at the top of the table, and James Roby did it eight times during his Saints career.
Ever the consistent performer himself, Roby was part of the League Leaders’ Shield winning St.Helens sides in: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2014. As Captain, he would lead the Red V to winning three more in 2018, 2019, and 2022.
2007 – MAN OF STEEL
Head Coach Paul Wellens has gone on record stating that James Roby winning the Man of Steel in 2007 was on the back of the then 21-year-old hooker having an incredible season that year, but he could have had ten more seasons ever better than that one but not receive Super League’s biggest individual accolade.
Back in 2007 though, Roby became the youngest recipient of the award and was the sixth ever St.Helens player to be named Man of Steel. In that campaign, Roby shone in his 12 match starts, but excelled as well coming off the bench rotating with the iconic Keiron Cunningham. Not limited to the hooker spot though, he would feature at loose-forward, stand-off and scrum-half in a memorable year.
6 – SUPER LEAGUE TITLES
Roby’s first Super League crown came in 2006 as St.Helens beat Hull FC in comfortable fashion, however the wait for the next title saw Saints fall short at the final hurdle five times in a row. That streak would be broken though in 2014, against the Club’s oldest foe Wigan at Old Trafford 14-6.
Then came the four-in-a-row… In 2019, St.Helens returned to Old Trafford to take on a Salford Red Devils side on the crest of a wave but fell to Roby’s Saints 23-6 and the start of an era of dominance.
2020’s Super League Grand Final is one of the most memorable in the competition’s history, with no crowd due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the match against Wigan taking place in Hull, and one of the tightest matches ever seen. In the dying seconds Tommy Makinson’s drop goal attempt came off the posts, bounced in the field of play and Jack Welsby put the ball down on the Wigan line to make it back-to-back championships.
In 2021 the title decider returned to Old Trafford, with Catalans Dragons in their maiden Grand Final pushing close but Saints saw them, 12-10, off for the THREE-peat, before somewhat fittingly, after a number of Grand Final losses to Leeds, in 2022, the Red V put Leeds Rhinos down for the FOUR-midable Saints’ Super League title victory – Roby’s sixth championship.
2 – HARRY SUNDERLAND TROPHY WINS
On Super League’s biggest night, the Grand Final, Roby has been named the Man of the Match and received the historic Harry Sunderland Trophy.
Firstly picking up the prize in 2014, and then again in 2020, in both matches demonstrating his industrious attitude in the middle of the field.
532 – RECORD BROKEN
On Saturday, 13th May 2023 James Roby played his 532nd game for the Red V against Salford Red Devils and became the new all-time record holder for match appearances for St.Helens R.F.C.
Roby took over the record from the legendary Kel Coslett who set it at 531 all the way back in 1976.
In a memorable day for all involved with Saints, Roby ahead of the game was given a guard of honour by the 2023 team, along with the match opponents Salford, as well as many past players, Following the fixture Roby’s teammates held up a fan fund-raised banner in front of the West Stand declaring Roby as ‘The Greatest Of All Time’ whilst thousands of the Saints faithful called for ‘one more year’.
4 – CHALLENGE CUPS
Early in Roby’s career, the Saints won three Challenge Cups in a row starting in 2006 at Twickenham cruising past Huddersfield 42-12, then in 2007 and 2008 at Wembley.
Roby made history by becoming the first man to score a rugby league try at the ‘new’ Wembley following it’s completion in 2007. A trademark pickup from the play of the ball for a darting dummy-half run, James evading five Catalans Dragons men to run over 30 metres and score. Saints would win that game 30-8. In 2008, St.Helens and Hull FC met at the national stadium, with the Red V getting that third Cup on the spin by winning 28-16.
A thirteen year wait to get Challenge Cup number four ended in 2021, with Roby scoring as the Red V beat Castleford Tigers in a reduced capacity Wembley Stadium due to Covid regulations, 26-12.
471 – POINTS SCORED
Over his 20 years with the Saints, James Roby scored 117 tries, kicking one conversion and one drop-goal. The single conversion came in the 2012 season against Castleford Tigers, whilst the one-pointer was in 2019 early on in the season against Leeds Rhinos.
551 – SAINTS APPEARANCES
James Roby’s final home Saints appearance came on Saturday, 30th September when The Greatest Of All Time made his astonishing 550th match in the famous Red V. He led the team to a knockout victory over local neighbours Warrington Wolves, 16-8, to go through to the Super League Semi-Final and face Catalans Dragons in France. Before exiting the Saints’ home field at the Totally Wicked Stadium for the final time, the First Team players and coaches, alongside Club Staff formed a Guard of Honour for the Captain.
The Saints came up agonisingly short of making it five straight Grand Finals in a row in heartbreaking and late fashion, losing 12-6, thus ending James Roby’s historic and storied career. Following the game, Roby spoke live on Sky Sports with sheer class and pride at representing the town and Club he loves, applauded the incredible travelling supporters who made the not-so-easy journey on short notice, and walked into the changing rooms.
JAMES ROBY: IN THE WORDS OF HIS TEAMMATES
Once a Saint, Always a Saint.
Thank you, for everything, James.