SAINTS teammates past and present, coaches and former opponents have all spoken out this week to celebrate skipper James Roby as he prepared to break the Super League appearance record.

Currently level with Kevin Sinfield on 454, Roby will break the summer-era record on Sunday if he runs out at Saints for the game against Hull KR.

With the rest of the top 10 already retired, it is a record than nobody sees being topped.

The former Blackbrook junior had already passed the 500 Saints appearance mark earlier this year, putting him up there with Billy Benyon (514), Eric Chisnall (523) and Kel Coslett (531).

But this will be another milestone that the skipper will take in his stride with his trademark humility and without a fuss.

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Saints assistant coach Paul Wellens, who played in Roby’s debut game in 2004, paid tribute to the way the veteran hooker has developed – and the impact that has had on the team.

Wellens said: “When James first broke into the first team environment in 2003 he was a quiet, unassuming kid who kept himself to himself. But you saw very quickly what he was capable of.

“At that time he was a player who could play numerous positions – but wherever you put him he always performed.

“As the years went by his confidence grew and he became an unbelievably influential player for us.

“He has grown as the team has grown, but some of that team growth is as a result of James being the leader.

“He leads through his actions more so than anybody I ever seen.

“He doesn’t say a lot but when he does he commands the dressing room – when James Roby talks everybody listens.

“His message is always very clear and to the point. There is no confusion after he speaks in the dressing room or in training.

“He has the utmost respect of everyone around him and he is the type of guy you want to go into battle with because he delivers. He does not ask anybody to do anything he’s not prepared to do himself.”

Wellens outlined Roby’s personality and attitude – and the way he has remained grounded despite his achievements and accolades.

“He is almost a bit like the boy next door. He has grown up in St Helens and so humble and down to earth – for someone to achieve so much in the game to retain that humility is quite special.

“There’s a lot of affection for Robes because of that – you would not know he is a rugby league superstar,” Wellens said.

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Teammate Jonny Lomax is a fellow key component of that Saints spine and has benefitted from Roby’s guiding light.

It has certainly proved a fruitful combination with Roby guiding Saints to three Super League titles in a row – to add to the two the number nine had already won in 2006 and 2014.

Lomax said: “He has really good principles and morals. Not just the way he holds himself and makes himself accountable on the field – but off it as well.

“For us as a group and a unit, he shows us all the way to go and how to go about things and approach things in the right way.

“And for everything he has achieved he is so humble – and that is the biggest testament to him.

“Most people see what he does on the field week-in and week-out, with his selfless actions. But off the field he is so down to earth and such a good fella and I have been lucky to play alongside him for such a long time and play under his captaincy.”

He echoed what Wellens said about him letting his actions speak louder than words.

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“Because of the way he is with his actions, everybody follows what he does. By not speaking all of the time – that gives him the most powerful voice in the changing room,” Lomax said.

Justin Holbrook, who coached Saints between 2017-19, made Roby skipper in his final year at the helm.

But before that Holbrook had already given the hooker more freedom and responsibility – and the team reaped the rewards.

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Holbrook said: “When I first went to St Helens I knew we had a fantastic hooker, the best in the game, and I wanted to use him more.

“The more he gets out and runs the better – and his decision making is fantastic and he never gets flustered.

“That is a great trait to have for anyone on the field, let alone a number 9.

“What he could offer was more than what he was doing and I encouraged him to play more.

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“He’s fast – even though he’s getting older now – but his passing is as good as anyone’s I have seen.

“He can throw 25 metres in both directions and has so much to offer.

“He’s also super fit and competitive but he is humble with it.

“The standards he sets for himself are infectious for the rest of the playing group.

“He turns up, gets the job done and it doesn’t matter how sore his body is or what the weather is like, nothing distracts him from going out to win a game of footy.”

Former Saints skipper James Graham goes back a long way with Roby – playing against him for St Helens Crusaders before joining him at Blackbrook.

They effectively broke in the Saints first team together – being on the bench in the tumultuous 2006 treble winning season.

Graham, who had two spells with Roby at Saints says one word sums up his play.

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"There are lots of things that make Robes special but the one word that springs to mind is consistency," Graham said.

"He made his debut in 2004 and now in 2022, he has maintained this consistent level of just sheer brilliance.

"I have never seen him have a poor game and everything he does is one hundred miles an hour, he is always leading the chase, he does the one-percenters and he has done it year after year after year.

"Words can't do it justice what it meant to be alongside my old mate JR and lift that Super League trophy with him for one last time.

"Obviously we did it together in 2006 and then we lost a couple along the road but 2006, when you are 20 and you win everything that year and you think it is going to happen all the time then you get a bit older and you learn it doesn't.

"But the opportunity to do it with him and take that opportunity will be memories that will be with me for the rest of my life.

" I know he won't acknowledge (the record), it will be just another day for him, he doesn't take his rugby home with him.

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“But I hope one day he gets the chance to just look back and reflect and have a smile at everything he has managed to do. Not just for himself but his family as well and the St Helens community.

"To do it all with the same team, where he grew up I don't think he realises this but what an achievement.”

Roby replaced club legend Keiron Cunningham in the hooking role in 2011 – but prior to that the pair had worked in tandem with great success.

The former Saints boss Cunningham described that link up in 2006 as “a marriage made in heaven when it happened”.

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Cunningham said: “Robes is just an athlete and can do stuff that I could never dream of doing, and vice versa.

“We were completely different – I would soften them up ad then Robes could come on and make 200 metres.

“I was very physical with the ball and without it and I adapted an art to ball play, whereas James’ early stages and he has been able to keep re-inventing himself all the time.

“As a kid he was an out and out athlete, 60 tackles and run for 240 metrres off the back of a good fo forwards and he was devastating for defences “Then I would roll back on for the back end. It was devastating partnership – brilliant for us both and the club.”

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He has watched his former understudy continue to blossom – even into his veteran stages.

But some things have remained the same.

“He is very humble, very down to earth. He never bigs himself up – he just gets on the field and does his job.

“James Roby would not even watch a game of rugby but get him on the field and he was one of the greatest players you have seen.

“It is quite flippant to use the word legend – but he is.

“He leads from the front every week – and you can hear his voice and see how the players look at him.

“He’s always been grounded and humble and that is the best attributes a player can have.

“He is just immense – I haven’t got the words in my working class vocabulary to explain what James Roby is.

“I am just glad that the vote for the statue at the side of the stadium isn’t now as I am not sure it would be my face up there now,” Cunningham said.

Roby passed Cunningham’s tally of 496 Saints appearances at the start of this year and now has his sights on the totals of three more former skippers – players who had plenty more competitions to play in rather than simply the Challenge Cup and the league.

“It says how durable he is – he is spending his time on the rugby field rather than the physio table.

“For him to play so many games and be knocking on the door for Kel Coslett’s record is insane to think about in modern rugby.

“I don’t think another player will come close to it in modern rugby,” he said.

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Former Great Britain teammate and Leeds and Bradford opponent Jamie Peacock has had the benefit of seeing Roby on both sides of the fence.

The hugely respected front rower gave his verdict.

Peacock said: “He has an ability to play consistently excellent – not just well, but excellent.

“When you watch him play he competes for absolutely everything, he is super skilful, he can read a game, and he is super tough.

“He does those four things every single week.

"I think what gets lost sometimes with players of that ability is because they do it every week you forget how special they are. As fans you forget how special they are.

"He is a very difficult player to play against and he is a great player to play alongside.

"He will go down as one of the true greats of Super League.”

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Kevin Sinfield, the player who he will leave behind in second after Sunday, does not begrudge losing his top place to a person of Roby’s character.

“He is a wonderful human being and one of Super League's best ever, just what a player," he said.

"To still be going like he is now and to still be a stand out and never change either is testament to him.

"He has been the same bloke the whole way through and I am absolutely delighted for him.

"He is just Mr Consistent, and he just delivers and keeps delivering.

“I don't think I have ever seen him deliver less than a nine out of 10 game.”

Sinfield, who was part of that Leeds Golden generation that were Saints’ nemesis in the late noughties, highlighted the threat posed by the number nine.

"You always just knew that you had to be on it at every single play with Robes.

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"If he decided to do it at marker, he would burn you, if you shot out the line, he would throw a dummy and go through, he could kick, he didn't kick often but had that up his sleeve as well.”

Sinfield said he was not disappointed by being dislodged at the top of the Super League records pile.

“Records are there to be broken and if there is someone who is going to beat it he would be number one.

"He is just a great guy, who just delivers every single week. He is just so consistent and plays at nine or 10 out of 10 every week.

“He will always be at the forefront, flying the flag for his team and long may that continue for him because he deserves everything he gets," Sinfield said.

A special tribute to mark James Roby's career can be viewed on the Super League YouTube channel ( from Sunday, June 12 at 5.30pm.