James Graham

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James Graham is an English professional rugby league footballer for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs of the National Rugby League (NRL). An England international representative forward, he previously played in Super League for English club, St. Helens, having won a number of Championships and Challenge Cups with them before moving to Sydney for the 2012 NRL season.

St Helens

James signed with Saints as a junior in 2000, eventually playing his way through the Junior Academies before making his senior debut against Castleford Tigers in August 2003. Graham already had leadership experience after captaining the England Academy in a famous series victory in Australia in 2004.

Graham played for St Helens from the interchange bench in their 2006 Challenge Cup Final victory against the Huddersfield Giants. Then-Great Britain coach Brian Noble selected Graham in a friendly against New Zealand earlier in 2006 in the Castlemaine XXXX]Test in which he made a try scoring debut at Knowsley Road. St Helens reached the 2006 Super League Grand final to be contested against Hull FC and Graham played from the interchange bench in Saints' 26-4 victory. As 2006 Super League champions, St Helens faced 2006 NRL Premiers the Brisbane Broncos in the 2007 World Club Challenge. Graham played from the interchange bench in Saints' 18-14 victory.

The young prop made a name for himself in 2007's Super League XII, making 27 first team appearances and being named Saints’ Young Player of the Year, for his mature, powerful performances which has also seen him named as a contender for Super League Young Player of the Year, with competition from Wigan Warriors rival Chris Ashton. He signed a new contract at St. Helens to tie his future at the Knowsley Road based club until 2011.

He was named in the Super League Dream Team for 2008's 2008 season.[1] James won the 2008 Man of Steel award, making him the fourth successive St Helens player to win the prestigious award having beaten rival Jamie Peacock and team mate Leon Pryce. He follows team mates James Roby, Paul Wellens, Jamie Lyon, Paul Sculthorpe (twice) and Sean Long in being named Man of Steel.

At the end of the season Graham was selected for the England squad to compete in the 2008 Rugby League World Cup tournament in Australia.[2] Group A's first match against Papua New Guinea he played at prop forward in England's victory.

He was named in the Rugby League Writers prop of the year in 2008 and the Rugby League World magazine the following year in 2009.

He was selected to play for England against France in the one-off test in 2010.[3]

Due to an injury to tour skipper Adrian Morley, Graham was handed over the captaincy of England's 2010 Four Nations tournament squad, and in doing so became one of the youngest ever captains of the national side.[4]

2011 would be Graham's final year at Saints as a host of NRL clubs covet his signature. Canterbury Bulldogs and Parramatta Eels are thought to head the list of interested clubs. If a deal is agreed, Graham would become yet another English player based in Sydney's west along with Gareth Ellis, Mark Flanagan (both Wests Tigers) and Michael Worrincy of the Penrith Panthers. Other English players currently in Australia include Sam Burgess and younger brothers George Burgess and Luke Burgess at the famous South Sydney Rabbitohs club owned by Gladiator star Russell Crowe, England international and Brisbane Broncos centre Jack Reed and young stand-off Gareth Widdop at the Melbourne Storm.

On the 27th April 2011 it was confirmed by club officials that St Helens RLFC joint captain James Graham will join NRL side Canterbury Bulldogs when his contract expires at the end of the 2011 season. "We did everything practical to persuade James to stay," said Saints chairman Eamonn McManus. "But we respect his wishes and ambitions. There comes a point where you have to just shake his hand and wish him luck."

Canterbury-Bankstown

Bulldogs chief executive Todd Greenberg told BBC Radio Merseyside: "It's a huge coup for the club. He brings not just on-field talent, he brings a huge profile off the field. He also brings some very strong leadership qualities to the club. Having met him last year and the way people talk about him from within the UK, he comes with glowing endorsements."[citation needed]

He played 26 games in his debut NRL season and was part of the Bulldogs team which lost the Grand Final to Melbourne Storm. However he was at the centre of the match's most controversial incident when he appeared to bite the left ear of Storm fullback Billy Slater. Graham denied the charge but was widely condemned and subsequently suspended for 12 matches by the NRL judiciary.[5] [6]

References