Rugby league's own Andre Ingram story
Grey-haired Andre Ingram gave goosebumps to sports fans around the world this week when he scored 19 points on debut for the Los Angeles Lakers – after spending a decade in the NBA’s developmental league.
His remarkable tale of perseverance culminated in him successfully sinking his first four shots of the game, including three from beyond the three-point line.
Winding the clock back to 2007, the Intrust Super Cup has an eerily similar story.
After 10 years in the semi-professional ranks with the Redcliffe Dolphins, including three Player of the Year awards, Michael Roberts finally made his NRL debut with the Brisbane Broncos.
And similar to Ingram, who is a maths tutor, Roberts was working at the time as a teacher at Redcliffe State High School.
“When (Broncos coach) Wayne Bennett read out that I was in the team, it was early on a Tuesday morning and I still had to go to work afterwards,” remembers Roberts.
“I was a bit blown away at the time and I had guys like Petero Civoniceva and Brad Thorn walking up to me, congratulating me, because they knew how long and hard I’d worked and they appreciated that.
“I drove to school and I had to focus to keep my mind on the job. My head was buzzing. It didn’t feel real.”
Roberts, who played hooker and half for Redcliffe, was given the opportunity after Australian and Queensland representative Shaun Berrigan broke his jaw.
The Mackay Brothers junior made his debut alongside Denan Kemp as the Broncos took on Manly Warringah at Brookvale Oval.
“I think I’d played almost 200 games for Redcliffe by that stage and I was only training with the Broncos once per week to stay in their system,” says Roberts.
“The first people I called when I was picked were my Mum and my Dad. They were really proud.
“Walking into school the Monday after the game was surreal too. All the students and my colleagues were talking about it, because they’d watched the game on TV over the weekend.”
Roberts, who stands 174cm, went on to play five games in the 2007 season for the Broncos.
While many rugby league fans often point to the example of his Redcliffe teammate Shane Perry, an unexpected premiership winner with the Broncos in 2006, Perry had tasted NRL much earlier in his career with the Wests Magpies.
Roberts says both of their stories – and that of Ingram’s – are examples he will keep drawing upon in his current role as a mentor at Australian Trade College.
“It’s all about teaching people the value of work ethic, working hard and being resilient,” says Roberts.
“I think the Andre Ingram example this week was awesome. A lot of work went into what he achieved and I think people respect that.
“It’s always good to see, whether you’re a student or an adult, someone who puts in that much work and is rewarded, and who proves the doubters wrong.”
Roberts will coach Queensland Under 16s this season and continue his role as an assistant coach with the Sunshine Coast Falcons.