Ian Roberts was one of the toughest forwards to ever play the game of rugby league.
But he has a softer side and admits he is still ashamed for “not stepping up” to help a teenager who was murdered in the 1990s at the height of Roberts’ playing career.
Roberts, 51, told Peter Sterling in an emotional interview on Fox Sports, that he regrets not doing more when police knocked on his door hoping his teenage lodger would provide evidence against his alleged paedophile attacker.
“When the police came to see me about Arron, I just remember feeling incredibly ashamed that at some point I was more concerned about my rugby league career and what the general public would think of me than stepping up and doing the right thing by that child,” he said.
“And I just remember that moment sinking in that this is going to destroy me. For me to go to that point and think about my career when that boy ended up murdered, left dead in the ditch, it crushes me.”
In 1994 while playing for Manly, Roberts was the first rugby league player in the world to come out as gay in what he describes as the “worst kept secret in rugby league”.
“There was a lot of relief for other people, particularly people close to me,” he said. “My parents at that stage had stopped going to the games because of what was being said in the crowds and shouted out on the field — it made my mum and dad very uncomfortable.
“My parents never wanted me to come out either. I think it was to their relief, they understood why I had to come out. It almost gave them the right to be there and stand up for me.
“Everyone at Manly knew I was gay, there was no issue. It made things much easier for me personally.”
Today, Roberts has a successful acting career in Hollywood having made some 40 films and TV programs.