Former St Helens prop James Graham to hit appearance milestone

James Graham
James Graham
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Few Rugby League players have made as big an impact Down Under as former Saints' ace James Graham.

It was a calculated gamble when the 33-year-old Maghull-born prop opted to forgo the chance to play in St Helens' new multi-million pound state-of-the-art stadium and take on a new and daunting challenge.

Graham, who had come through the Knowsley Road junior ranks, was only in his mid-twenties when he signed for Canterbury Bulldogs.

But he took what at the time was a massive and life-changing decision and has never looked back since, becoming a cult figure during his time in the NRL and a hero to thousands of Australian fans who took him to their hearts from day one.

Now he is on the threshold of making his 400th domestic career appearance in the colours of his latest club, St George Illawarra Dragons - 225 of which were totted up as a St Helens player between 2003 and 2011 and the remainder in Oz.

Saints' skipper James Roby who, like Graham started his rise to the top at Blackbrook ARLC, said: ''Jammer has had a fantastic career and I loved playing along side him at Saints.''

Barring injury or suspension, he will bring up his 400th game at Wollongong’s WIN Stadium against North Queensland in round 15, pipping Melbourne's Cameron Smith to that milestone.

Told he was set to beat Smith to the 400 club, in typical Graham fashion, he played down the achievement.

“I’m not in a race with anyone,” he said

Of more pressing concern for Graham is breaking the Dragons’ recent poor spell of form.

The England and Great Britain international said: “The frustrating thing from our perspective is we know we’re better, we know we’re capable of more,”

“We’ve showed that. If we were deadbeats and no-hopers we’d just accept it and move on and play next week and not really care.

“We are hurting and we want to do something about it.”

Graham is off contract at the end of next year and is still highly respected by his teammates.

Dragons' flyer Matt Dufty said Jammer had earned enough respect that he always listened to what he had to say and his work ethic and passion had rubbed off on him.

“I look up to James, he’s been everywhere and done everything,” Dufty said.

“If he says something, I’ll listen. It is a bit like big brother/little brother. He gets angry at me for stuff when he knows I can be better. I listen because that’s just the respect I have for him.”