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Roberts keen to work with Kearney, Sandow

By Joe Barton 17/05/2011 06:24:37 PM Comments (0)

Out-of-favour Bulldogs five-eighth Ben Roberts says the opportunity to learn from Parramatta's Stephen Kearney - and play alongside Chris Sandow - convinced him to switch NRL clubs this week.

The 25-year-old former New Zealand international has managed just seven minutes of first grade off the bench in round one against Wests Tigers, and has spent the rest of 2011 starring in reserve grade.

But he is adamant he has plenty to offer in the NRL, prompting his decision to end a six-year association with the Bulldogs.

"I'm really looking forward to being coached by Steve," Roberts said on Tuesday.

"He's going to challenge me next year with my game and that's something I'm looking forward to.

"I honestly think he can improve me as a footballer, so that's one of the main reasons why I'm going there."

In a twist, the man keeping him out of first grade this year is Kris Keating, who signed with the Bulldogs from Parramatta this season.

Roberts held talks with both Cronulla and the Gold Coast before setting on the Eels offer due to the lure of Kearney, fellow new recruit Sandow and Dally M medal winner Jarryd Hayne.

"The future of the club is actually looking very positive," Roberts said.

"They've got a great signing with Chris Sandow there, Jarryd Hayne's already there and you've got the likes of Nathan Hindmarsh as well who is going to be very good to play alongside.

"(Sandow) is playing unbelievable (football). I'm looking forward to that ... I'm sure we'll get along."

Roberts had a request to join the Eels mid-season turned down, with the Bulldogs not eager to lose halves depth for the rest of the season.

Coach Kevin Moore was disappointed, but understanding, of Roberts' decision to seek more regular first grade football.

"It's always disappointing to lose a player of Ben's calibre," he said.

"It just got into a situation this year where Kris Keating got the jump on him at the start of the year and his form has been really good.

"Ben's obviously looking for that opportunity to play regular first grade, and that's not to say he can't do that for the rest of the year with us as well.

"I've got no doubt he's going to be a big part of our plans right through to the back end of the year.

"It's a good signing for Parramatta, he's a tremendous kid and all we can do is wish him luck."

The duel signings of Roberts and Sandow could signal the end of Daniel Mortimer's time in the halves, with the talented 21-year-old tipped to move to the hooking role - though Roberts welcomed the competition.

"That brings the best out in a lot of footballers and I think biding my time here this year has taught me a lot as well to mentally and physically get myself ready," he said.

"If anything, it's going to be a positive thing for me."

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