James Graham (rugby league)

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James Graham
James Graham Canterbury Bulldogs.jpg
Personal information
Full nameJames Graham[1]
Born (1985-09-10) 10 September 1985 (age 34)
Maghull, Merseyside, England
Height6 ft 2 in (188 cm)
Weight17 st 0 lb (108 kg)[2]
Playing information
Years Team Pld T G FG P
2003–11 St Helens 225 53 0 0 212
2012–17 Canterbury Bulldogs 135 9 0 0 36
2018– St. George Illawarra 44 1 0 0 4
Total 404 63 0 0 252
Years Team Pld T G FG P
2006–07 Great Britain 5 3 0 0 12
2008– England 43 3 0 0 12
2015–16 NRL All Stars 2 0 0 0 0
As of 6 September 2019
Source: [3][4][5]

James Graham (born 10 September 1985) is an English professional rugby league footballer who plays as a prop for the St. George Illawarra Dragons in the NRL, and England and Great Britain at international level.

He previously played for St Helens in the Super League,[6] having won a number of Championships and Challenge Cups with them before moving to Sydney for the 2012 NRL season.[3][4] He has played for the Canterbury Bulldogs in the National Rugby League, and has played for the NRL All Stars.

Graham is considered somewhat of an unlucky figure in his playing career when it comes to grand finals, losing six grand finals in a row including five in a row with his former club St Helens in the English Super League competition across the 2007-2011 seasons, and with the Canterbury Bulldogs in the Australian National Rugby League in 2012.[7] He then went on to play in the 2014 NRL Grand Final loss to the South Sydney Rabbitohs, and he also featured for England in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup Final loss to Australia.[8][9]

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 début 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 début 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 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.[10] 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 (two spells) 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).[11]


He played 26 games in his début 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 [12] was widely condemned and subsequently suspended for 12 matches by the NRL Judiciary in a hearing lasting ten minutes.[13][14]

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.[15] 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.

St George Illawarra Dragons[edit]

On the 5th of September during NRL 360, Graham announced that he had signed a 3 year deal with the St George Illawarra Dragons starting in the 2018 NRL season. The deal was confirmed by his previous club the Bulldogs & future club the Dragons on the 7th of September 2017.[16] In Graham's first year at St George, the club qualified for the finals and defeated Brisbane in week one 48-18 before being eliminated the following week by South Sydney losing 13-12.[17]

Graham played in the club's first 11 games of the 2019 NRL season but was taken from the field during St George's 22-9 loss against Cronulla. Scans later revealed that Graham had suffered a fibula fracture and was ruled out for 8 weeks.[18]

In Round 21 of the 2019 NRL season, Graham played his 400th first grade game as St George defeated the Gold Coast 40-28 at Kogarah Oval.[19] [20]

Graham made a total of 19 appearances for St George in the 2019 NRL season as the club endured one of their worst ever seasons finishing 15th on the table.[21]

Representative career[edit]

James made his International début for Great Britain in the 2006, scoring twice in a mid-season international with New Zealand. He missed the Tri-Nations later that season after injuring himself during a drunken episode involving his St Helens teammates. He went on to make another three Great Britain appearances which would all come in the 2007 All Golds Tour before the nation would be ceased and split up into three countries: England, Scotland and Wales.

The following year in June, James made his début 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.[22] 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.[23]

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.[24]

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.[25] He appeared in the France test match where England went on to rout their opponents.[26] He made history in the opening test-match of the series against New Zealand as he officially became the most capped England international, making his 28th appearance for England, since their reinaurguration from Great Britain. He expressed his pride and joy after realising he had now officially beaten Kevin Sinfield's record.[27]

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.

Graham was a member of The English squad which competed in the 2017 rugby league world cup. England made it to the final but were defeated by Australia 6-0.[28]


  1. ^ "James Graham". Companies House. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  2. ^ "Meet the Teams First Team Players". web page. Saints RFC. 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Profile at loverugbyleague.com". Love Rugby League. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Statistics at rugbyleagueproject.org". Rugby League Project. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  5. ^ "England Statistics at englandrl.co.uk". England Rugby League. Archived from the original on 17 April 2018. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  6. ^ "St Helens profile". Archived from the original on 29 November 2010. Retrieved 1 June 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  7. ^ Proszenko, Adrian (30 September 2014). "Canterbury Bulldogs' Dally M-winning prop James Graham eager to break finals losing streak". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  8. ^ Pengilly, Adam (2 December 2017). "Rugby League World Cup 2017: England's James Graham won't apologise for sledging". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  9. ^ Lane, Daniel (11 October 2014). "How James Graham gave an 11-year-old boy a grand final memory he'll cherish forever". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  10. ^ "2008 engage Super League Dream Team". Super League. 15 September 2008. Archived from the original on 21 July 2010. Retrieved 26 September 2008. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  11. ^ Proszenko, Adrian (30 September 2014). "Canterbury Bulldogs' Dally M-winning prop James Graham eager to break finals losing streak". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 2 October 2014. Retrieved 25 October 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Webster, Andrew (6 October 2012). "Bulldog James Graham insists he didn't bite Billy Slater". The Daily Telegraph. News Corp. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  14. ^ Jackson, Glenn (4 October 2012). "I'm a lover not a biter; defiant Graham maintains innocence". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  15. ^ Carayannis, Michael (4 October 2014). "Canterbury Bulldogs captain Michael Ennis ruled out of NRL grand final, James Graham, Trent Hodkinson named as co-captains". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  16. ^ "James Graham: England prop to join St George Illawarra Dragons". BBC Sport. 5 September 2017. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  17. ^ https://www.foxsports.com.au/nrl/nrl-premiership/live-nrl-south-sydney-rabbitohs-v-st-george-illawarra-dragons-live-score-updates-news-blog/news-story/434579d0fdbe938577ce91970d402046
  18. ^ "Dragons suffer double blow with Graham, Lafai sidelined". NRL.com.
  19. ^ "Dragons vs Titans: Gold Coast Titans defence slammed as 'too easy for first grade'". Sporting News.
  20. ^ "'Once in a generation' Graham to celebrate 400th game". Fox Sports.
  21. ^ "Paul McGregor facing the axe as St. George Illawarra Dragons coach following horror season". Sporting News.
  22. ^ "Purdham earns World Cup call-up". BBC Sport. BBC. 7 October 2008. Retrieved 7 October 2008.
  23. ^ Hadfield, Dave (13 June 2010). "Widdop passes his first Test at a canter". The Independent. UK: Independent Print Limited. Retrieved 8 July 2010.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ "McNamara names 24-man squad for 2015 International Series". England Rugby League. 11 October 2015. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  26. ^ "England demolish France 84-4 in record win". Sky Sports. Sky UK. 24 October 2015. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  27. ^ "Graham's joy at England RL cap record". SBS News. SBS. 5 November 2015. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
  28. ^ Davidson, John (2 December 2017). "England suffer World Cup final heartbreak in 6-0 defeat". The Independent. Retrieved 20 July 2018.

External links[edit]