James Graham hints at coaching role at the Dragons after fairytale finish to playing career

Rugby league legend James Graham admits he still can’t believe the circumstances in which he finished his career a week on from St Helens’ miraculous Super League grand final victory.

Graham farewelled rugby league after St Helens defeated Wigan in a thrilling match last week that saw Jack Welsby score a last-second try off a deflected field goal. 

For 35-year-old Graham it was the perfect end to a storied career that started all the way back in 2003 for St. Helens. 

Overall, he amassed 474 matches of rugby league across his time at St. Helens, Canterbury, St. George and playing for Great Britain and England. 

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But he admits not one of those matches comes close to rivalling St. Helens’ 2020 title win for the best moment of his career. 

Speaking with Andrew Voss on SEN, Graham reflected on the memorable final match of his illustrious career. 

“It still doesn’t feel real,” Graham said.

“I’ve been smiling all week, I’ve seen the game back in highlight form, still getting nervous about the end result and then it happens again. 

“I’ve been involved in some close games and some good comebacks but nothing quite like that. 

“Everything involved in the game, obviously you’re playing for the title, the year that it’s been, all these little side stories. 

“Wigan having an opportunity to win the game in the last minute, unfortunately for them they missed the conversion. 

“The range of emotions in that last minute or so. You think the drop goal is going over and then it hits the post, you’ve got that range of emotions again. 

“And then it’s, what’s Jack Welsby doing there chasing the drop goal down?

“Is he onside? It looks like he’s scored? Nothing quite like that mate. 

“It was one of them if someone wrote it in a story book, it would be going in the fiction aisle and you’d barely believe it. 

“But sport has that great power and I’m still pinching myself in realising it’s true.”

There were incredible scenes post-match with Graham in tears on the sidelines. 

He was clearly emotional not only due to the result but because of the realisation that his final moment on the footy field would be winning another title. 

He told Vossy that he had an extreme rollercoaster of emotions waiting for the try to be awarded and at one stage thought it would be given no try.

“When it went to the video ref, I was looking like I was going to explode but you have to keep it all in,” Graham said.

“I was just trying to bottle it all up. I was on the sideline, I was anticipating that it was going to be a try, and when it went up to the video ref I heard the Wigan bench

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Former Bulldogs and Dragons veteran James Graham calls time on 18-year rugby league career

2020 will be the last year of James Graham’s illustrious rugby league career after the St. Helens veteran forward announced his retirement.

The 35-year-old will hang the boots up having played over 400 games across an 18-year career in the Super League and NRL, as well as 44 Tests for England.

Graham debuted with the Saints in 2003 and played 224 games for the club before shifting to the Canterbury Bulldogs in 2012.

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The Englishman played 135 first grade games at Belmore and featured in the Bulldogs’ 2012 and 2014 grand final sides. He was named captain of the club in the 2015 season.

Graham then moved to the St. George Illawarra Dragons ahead of the 2018 season and played 52 matches across three seasons for the Red V, before gaining a release and returning to St. Helens midway through this season.

The fan-favourite front-rower retires a Man of Steel winner, three-time Challenge Cup winner and Super League grand finalist. 

“Playing for St Helens and over in the NRL has been an absolute honour. I am gutted this season will be my final one as a player, but I came to Saints saying I would have one last all in push for this season and nothing has changed there.

“Finishing my career at my boyhood Club was an opportunity that I couldn’t resist. Unfortunately, I am gutted we have not been able to play in front of our fans as I know they feel every pass, every tackle and every run. I have even missed the opposition fans who would give me a piece of their mind!

“I have had so many fantastic memories throughout my career here at Saints, in the NRL and on the International stage representing my country. It has all been a huge honour. I would like to thank all my family and friends who have supported me throughout my career and all the people involved from community clubs Thatto Heath and Blackbrook to people in the St Helens Academy as well as everybody involved at Canterbury Bulldogs and St George Illawarra Dragons.

“Now that all has been said, the season has not finished yet and my intention now is completing the job I came here to do with St Helens. We are going to take things a game at a time, moment by moment and give ourselves the best possible opportunity to finish the job.”

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