James Graham (rugby league)

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James Graham
James Graham Canterbury Bulldogs.jpg
Personal information
Nickname Bupa[1]
Born (1985-09-10) 10 September 1985 (age 31)
Maghull, England, UK
Height 6 ft 2 in (188 cm)
Weight 17 st 0 lb (108 kg)[2]
Playing information
Position Prop
Years Team Pld T G FG P
2003–11 St. Helens 225 53 0 0 212
2012– Canterbury-Bankstown 114 8 0 0 32
Total 339 61 0 0 244
Years Team Pld T G FG P
2006–07 Great Britain 5 2 0 0 8
2008–16 England 32 1 0 0 4
2015-16 NRL All Stars 2 0 0 0 0
Source: Rugby League Project, St Helens profile, Englandrl

James Graham (born 10 September 1985) is an English professional rugby league footballer and club captain for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs of the National Rugby League (NRL). An England international representative prop 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.

Professional playing career[edit]

St Helens[edit]

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

Graham played for St Helens from the interchange bench in their 2006 Challenge Cup Final victory against Huddersfield. 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 F.C. 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 substitute 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[citation needed] which has also seen him named as a contender for Super League Young Player of the Year, with competition from Wigan rival Chris Ashton. He signed a new contract at St. Helens to tie his future at the Knowsley Road based club until 2011.[citation needed]

He was named in the Super League Dream Team for 2008's 2008 season.[3] 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.

Graham playing for St Helens in 2011
Graham representing England in 2011

He was named in the Rugby League Writers' team of the year in 2008 and the Rugby League World magazine the following year in 2009.[citation needed]

2011 would be Graham's final year at Saints as a host of NRL clubs coveted his signature. Canterbury Bulldogs and Parramatta Eels were thought to head the list of interested clubs.

On 27 April 2011 it was confirmed by club officials that St. Helens 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." Graham left St Helens with a 4-5 record in finals (1-5 in Super League Grand Finals in 2006, and 2007-2011; and 3-0 in Challenge Cup Finals from 2008-2010).[4]


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 despite inconclusive video footage [5] was widely condemned and subsequently suspended for 12 matches by the NRL judiciary in a hearing lasting ten minutes.[6][7]

After Canterbury captain Michael Ennis was ruled out of the 2014 NRL Grand Final due to a foot injury, Graham along with teammate Trent Hodkinson were named co-captains of the Bulldogs for the match.[8] At the Bulldogs 2015 season launch, Graham was named the club captain for the club's 80th season, replacing former rake Michael Ennis. It was also announced that the Englishman will be joined in the role with newly appointed vice-captains, Aiden Tolman and Frank Pritchard.

Representative career[edit]

James made his International debut for Great Britain in the 2006 Tri-Nations competition. He played in 2 of the nation's tournament matches including scoring a double on debut against New Zealand in Christchurch. He went on to make another 3 Great Britain appearances which would all come in the 2007 All Golds Tour before the nation would be ceased and split up into 3 countries: England, Scotland and Wales.

The following year in June, James made his debut for the re-established England team against France in Toulouse. James would go on to play for England in one more fixture, against Wales in Doncaster, before being selected in the 2008 Rugby League World Cup team.[9] He would go on to appear in 3 of England's 4 appearances in their campaign.

He was selected to play for England against France in the one-off test in 2010.[10]

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.[11]

Graham played in the 2011 Four Nations and 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

Graham was the vice-captain of England at the 2014 Four Nations. He captained the team in their match against Samoa.

At the conclusion of the 2015 domestic season, Graham was selected to play for England in the 2015 end-of-year internationals against France and New Zealand.[12] He appeared in the France test match where England went on to rout their opponents.[13] He made history in the opening test-match of the series against New Zealand as he officially became the most capped English international, making his 28th appearance for his country, since their reinaurguration from Great Britain. He expressed his pride and joy after realising he had now officially beaten Kevin Sinfield's record.[14]

In October 2016, Graham was selected in the England squad for the 2016 Four Nations. Before the tournament, he captained the team in a test match against France in the absence of 'usual' captain Sam Burgess after he was unavailable due to suspension. Graham captained England to a 40-6 victory.


  1. ^ Crawley, Paul (29 September 2012). "Des sees double but you've got to laugh". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  2. ^ "Meet the Teams First Team Players". web page. Saints RFC. 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2011. 
  3. ^ "2008 engage Super League Dream Team". Super League. 2008-09-15. Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  4. ^ "James Graham eager to break finals losing streak". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2014-09-30. Retrieved 2014-10-25. 
  5. ^ Webster, Andrew (5 October 2012). "James Graham cops 12 match ban for biting Billy Slater's ear during the 2012 grand final". Herald Sun. Australia: News Limited. Retrieved 13 July 2014. 
  6. ^ "Bulldog James Graham insists he didn't bite Billy Slater". The Daily Telegraph. 2012-10-06. Retrieved 2012-10-10. 
  7. ^ "I'm a lover not a biter; defiant Graham maintains innocence". SMH. 2012-10-04. Retrieved 2012-10-10. 
  8. ^ "Canterbury Bulldogs captain Michael Ennis ruled out of NRL grand final, James Graham, Trent Hodkinson named as co-captains". Retrieved 10 July 2016. 
  9. ^ "Purdham earns World Cup call-up". BBC. 2008-10-07. Retrieved 2008-10-07. 
  10. ^ Hadfield, Dave (2010-06-13). "Widdop passes his first Test at a canter". The Independent. UK: Independent Print Limited. Retrieved 2010-07-08. 
  11. ^ Hadfield, Dave (22 October 2010). "'I didn't have a clue what league was,' says new England captain". The Independent. UK: independent.co.uk. Retrieved 23 October 2010. 
  12. ^ "MCNAMARA NAMES 24-MAN SQUAD FOR 2015 INTERNATIONAL SERIES". englandrl.co.uk. 2015-10-11. Retrieved 2015-10-11. 
  13. ^ "England demolish France 84-4 in record win". Skysports.com. Retrieved 24 October 2015. 
  14. ^ "Graham's joy at England RL cap record". SBS. 2015-11-05. Retrieved 2015-11-05. 

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