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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“What I want is for him to finish his career there.”

The international break is finally over, and Pep Guardiola is ours for two more years after the current campaign! Alongside our players banging in the goals, we’ve had a pretty successful international break. Attentions now turn to Tottenham and Jose Mourinho, in what seems like a must-win game.

Here’s all the quotes from Guardiola pre-match press conference…

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The squads potential 

First up for Pep Guardiola was a discussion on this squads potential. During the international break, youngsters Phil Foden and Ferran Torres throughly impressed. Guardiola maintains however, he’s taking it week by week:

“I’m not thinking much right now about titles. It will be good to do what we have done the last three years. It’s difficult. But we are thinking week by week to do a good job and we’ll see at the end what we deserve.”

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Messi Manchester bound?

With all the post-Pep contract talk yesterday, Lionel Messi was obviously mentioned as a potential target for the club in either January or the summer. Pep Guardiola has always maintained a stance he wants Messi to finish his career at Barcelona – and that’s not changed.

“Messi is a player from Barcelona, if you ask me my opinion I have a huge gratitude for what Barcelona has done for me, what I want is for him to finish his career there.

I would love, wish, I have said a thousand times. I would like as a Barcelona fan for him to finish his career then. I don’t know what is in his mind, for now he is a Barcelona player. The transfer market is in June.”

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Injury updates

With a hectic schedule, Pep Guardiola has provided us all with an injury update as the players return from international duty.

Fernandinho has recovered from his hamstring injury but will not be available for this weekend clash as he has ‘something in his stomach‘. However, both Sergio Agüero and Raheem Sterling have both recovered from their respective injuries and are available for selection.

“Sergio [Aguero] trained this week and Raheem [Sterling], today, was the first training with the team.” 

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(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Contract extension reaction

Obviously the main topic of conversation was Guardiola’s contract extension – confirmed by the club yesterday. He reiterated the main reason he decided to stay came from talks with the club Chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak. 

“One of the main ones was my conversations with Khaldoon. The club, especially this season, how the club asked in the difficult period. The club didn’t ask the government for furlough, didn’t fire one person.”

“They showed me the club, how good they are in many things. After the conversation with Khaldoon, we decided on two more years.”

“All managers are there to win titles. We did an incredible job to win eight titles. The job is not to win titles, it’s to win tomorrow. We spoke a lot with Txiki, Khaldoon and analyse what we have done, what we can do,” Guardiola continued. 

“I say

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Pep Guardiola wants Lionel Messi to finish career at Barcelona

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Pep Guardiola distanced himself on Friday from suggestions that his decision to extend his contract at Manchester City was linked to the possibility of Lionel Messi moving to the club next year.

City was linked with the 33-year-old Messi after he put in a transfer request at Barcelona during the offseason. The Argentina forward ultimately chose to stay at Barcelona, somewhat against his own wishes, but his contract expires at the end of the season.

Guardiola signed a new two-year deal with City this week that ties him to the club until 2023. He was asked Friday whether the possibility of working with the six-time world player of the year again was motivation for his decision.

“Leo Messi is a player from Barcelona. And you ask me my opinion, as a person who has huge gratitude for what Barcelona has done for me in the academy as a football player and, after, a manager who gave me absolutely everything, what I want is he finishes his career there,” Guardiola said.

“That is what I want. I would wish — as I’ve said I don’t know how many times, maybe a thousand times — I would like as a Barcelona fan for Leo to finish there.”

It is not the first time Guardiola has downplayed a talk of a reunion with his former player at City. This time, though, he left the door ajar.

“But he finishes the year of his contract,” he added. “I don’t know what is going to happen in his mind.

“Right now, he is a Barcelona player. The transfer market will be in June, July. We have incredible targets we want to achieve and this is all we have in our minds. The rest I cannot say anything else.”

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Michigan’s Zak Irvin works through adversity to finish college career strong

Zak Irvin is one of the lucky ones who can fall asleep on airplanes. On March 8, surrounded by his University of Michigan teammates, coaches, their families, the pep band and cheerleaders, he zonked out before the plane that was about to take them to Washington, D.C. for the Big Ten tournament even began to taxi down the runway.

But Irvin’s slumber was interrupted that day. Trying to take off in high winds at Willow Run Airport, the pilot quickly determined he wasn’t going to be able to get the plane into the air, so he did the only thing he could — hit the brakes. Michigan assistant coach Billy Donlon won’t ever forget what happened next.

“If [the pilot] keeps going straight, we’re going to run into buildings,” Donlon said. “He had to make a hard left to get off the runaway. It wasn’t like we slid off the runway. He had to do it to avoid buildings.”

Only when the plane skidded into a fence did Irvin awaken to the horror that was unfolding.

“We took out a fence,” Irvin said. “That’s what I woke up to. I’m like, ‘what is going on right now?’ I heard people screaming. Was this real life or a movie? I felt like I was dreaming.”

“After what I’ve been through this season, I’m ready for anything.”

Zak Irvin

It wasn’t a dream, but it wasn’t a nightmare, either. Everyone on board scrambled to safety, and there were no serious injuries.

“I talked to some pilots afterwards,” Donlon said. “And a couple of them told me the majority of mishaps like that are all-or-nothing deals. Either everybody walks away, or nobody walks away. We were really lucky.”

Michigan coach John Beilein and athletic director Warde Manuel gave the Wolverines the option of getting back on a plane and playing in the Big Ten tournament or staying in Ann Arbor, but there was never a question about what they would do.

What happened next will be talked about as long as college basketball is played. Forced to compete in their practice gear because their uniforms were still packed on the damaged plane, and arriving at the Verizon Center just two hours before game time, the Wolverines, seeded No. 8 in the tournament, beat Illinois to advance to the quarterfinals. There, they took out No. 1 seed Purdue. In the semifinals, Michigan got past Minnesota, setting up a championship game matchup with Wisconsin. The Wolverines won, secured an automatic NCAA tournament bid and advanced all the way to the Sweet 16 before their run was ended by eventual Final Four participant Oregon.

Of course the national media breathlessly told the story of how Michigan, uncertain of an NCAA berth before its brush with tragedy, was propelled through March by its good fortune. But the truth was, the Wolverines were 6-2 in their previous eight games before the Big Ten tournament, and the only losses were in overtime at Minnesota and against Northwestern, when the

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Julio Jones Says He Wants to Finish His Career with Falcons Amid Trade Rumors | Bleacher Report

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones runs against the Carolina Panthers during the second half of an NFL football game Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

Mike McCarn/Associated Press

Once an Atlanta Falcon, always an Atlanta Falcon.

That is apparently what wide receiver Julio Jones would like to say following his career. After Thursday’s 25-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers, Jones told NFL Network he would like to retire with the only NFL team he has ever known (around the four-minute mark). 

“I do want to finish my career with Atlanta, but, like I said, at the end of the day those things are out of your hands,” he said while also explaining he still believes he is the best wide receiver in the league.

Jones was brilliant in the win and finished with seven catches for 137 yards while torching Carolina’s zone. He was even more important after Calvin Ridley exited with an ankle injury.

The receiver’s comments come with Tuesday’s trade deadline hovering over a 2-6 team that likely isn’t going to make a late playoff push. Moving him to a contender could help the Falcons land a number of important assets to facilitate any rebuild, but he is also still a key playmaker who is under contract through 2023.

Falcons writer Kelsey Conway explained there have been “several reports that questioned if the Falcons would be looking to shop some of their top players,” although Jones was adamant even leading up to the Carolina game that he wanted to stay put.

“No,” he said of any desire to be traded. “I play football. I know who I am, I know what I got going on. I know what I mean to this team.”

Atlanta selected Jones with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, and he has established himself as a franchise icon already with seven Pro Bowl appearances, two All-Pro selections and seven seasons with more than 1,100 receiving yards.

He led the league in receiving yards twice and helped lead the Falcons to the Super Bowl during the 2016 campaign.

While they fell short in that one, it sounds like the Alabama product would like another chance at a Lombardi Trophy in an Atlanta uniform.

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How a career-best finish was heartbreaking for Josh Williams

Restarting 11th with four laps to go in last weekend’s Xfinity race at Kansas Speedway, Williams saw his chance for a top-10 finish, something he had done only five times in 90 previous starts.

He had fresh tires and hope. There are no more powerful allies in racing. Especially for one who calls himself an old-school racer for how he worked his way up to driving for a small-budget Xfinity team. 

“Late in the race like that, when everybody is really trying to get after it, it is kind of like roulette,” Williams told NBC Sports. “You really never know what number it is going to land on.”

As the field entered Turn 1 on the restart, a lane opened on the bottom. Williams charged. The DGM Racing driver climbed to eighth by the backstretch. He gained two more spots to finish a career-high sixth.

After the checkered flag, he returned to pit road. Williams unbuckled his belts. He removed his helmet. Williams paused as he climbed from his car. He sat on the driver’s side window. And bowed his head.

He was not celebrating.

He was mourning.

Josh Williams, 27, starts conversations with “hey brother.” So maybe it isn’t surprising that he once hired a person he met at a gas station.

Williams had come across the guy a couple of times at the track but didn’t know his name. He had also seen him at the gas station near Williams’ shop before. On this particular day a few years ago, Williams was preparing to go to Daytona for an ARCA race and needed some help. When he saw the familiar fellow at the gas station, Williams struck up a conversation. He asked the guy if he wanted to help him at the track. Williams got a quick “yes.” Williams said they would leave from the shop, got his phone number and told Tim Hayes: “Let’s go racing.”

Hayes worked on and off for Williams for a spell before he joined Josh Williams Motorsports full-time. Williams’ operation takes care of racing vehicles from Bandolero cars and Legends Cars to Late Models for others.

“We try to get these kids to where I was,” Williams said of his development program.

Hayes helped Williams’ Xfinity crew at times, but Hayes’ focus was working on the cars at Williams’ shop and helping the young drivers who piloted them.

Hayes was easy to get along with, Williams said. The bond between Williams and Hayes grew quickly.

“I don’t think I ever went a day in the shop without laughing my ass off about something (Hayes) had to say,” Williams said. “He was one the funniest dudes I’ve ever been around.”

Hayes’ life wasn’t always full of laughter, though.

“I know he was battling depression for a long time,” Williams said. “When I met him, he was in a pretty rough place. He told me probably about nine months ago, he said, ‘Man, if I hadn’t met you and your wife I don’t

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Ranidel de Ocampo ranks Gilas’ 2013 silver finish as his top career achievement

Ranidel de Ocampo considers Gilas Pilipinas’ second-place finish in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship as his crowning achievement as a player.

On that fateful day in August 2013, Gilas Pilipinas was able to book a ticket to the 2014 FIBA World Cup, its first appearance since 1978, at the expense of longtime tormentor South Korea.

“I would rate that number one more than the World Cup. When we won, I saw and felt that we had given the Philippines honor. It was an eerie feeling, since our countrymen saw the win first hand,” De Ocampo said on TV5’s Sports Page on Monday.

For De Ocampo, who hit some big shots that put Gilas ahead, the huge crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena made him feel something that he only thought happened in movies.

“I still get goosebumps. When I stood in a corner, I lost balance in my hearing because of the roar of the crowd, especially when Gabe [Norwood] made the last stop. I lost my balance, then everything felt like slow mo,” he described. “I never knew it could happen like in a movie. I could not hear anything… they were loud.”

Everybody was overcome with emotions after the win, with De Ocampo and Marc Pingris sobbing in the post-game press conference along with the journalists who covered the historic game.

If he considered the 2013 silver-medal finish as his greatest, he believed that the ensuing 2015 FIBA Asia Championship finals his biggest regret.

“I admit, our lineup was not as strong as the previous [Gilas team], but if we had, we would have won against China in the Finals. We may have played in the 2016 [Rio] Olympics. That’s when I can finally be called an Olympian. Wouldn’t be complete if you were one like Sen. [Robert] Jaworski and Sen. [Freddie] Webb,” lamented de Ocampo.

During the Philippines’ thrashing of Kuwait in a Group B round robin affair, he and Abdulaziz Alhamidi had a run-in in the latter part of the game. The two exchanged elbows, but the Kuwaiti was the one ejected for confronting the referee.

“Terrence [Romeo] was already complaining, ‘Kuya, #12 is throwing elbows!’ I said, ‘Let it go, let’s focus on the next game,” said de Ocampo.

When Alhamidi gave him a sharp elbow, he decided to take revenge.

“We only had one minute, I had no more time to fight back. I actually hit him two times. The first one was an elbow to the face during the rebound, and nobody saw that!” de Ocampo quipped. “The second time was when I whacked him in the face while he was looking for the guy who nailed him earlier. That’s when he bled and complained to the referee.”

Luckily, after the tournament, cooler heads prevailed, and it was De Ocampo who first made amends over breakfast.

In his 15-year career, De Ocampo tallied numerous accomplishments, which includes six PBA championships, two PBA Finals MVPs, and a Best Player of the Conference award

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