It was a phone call with a former team-mate that got him thinking about Super League.
Before the NRL’s return, James Graham had given little thought to the prospect of a return to St Helens.
But a chat with Saints legend and close friend Paul Wellens got the wheels in motion and within weeks, he’d agreed to return to the club where his career started and, ultimately, where it will end too.
“It happened really quickly,” Graham said.
“I was on the phone to Paul Wellens; we keep in touch and we’re really good friends. He sort of mentioned there was a high probability of a spot becoming available and would I consider it.
“I gave it some time to think about it, had a couple of phone calls with Mike Rush and there were no promises either way, but it grew from there.
“The more I thought about it, the more I thought it was the right decision to make. There was a lot to weigh up, but I felt it was the right decision.
“I’ve mixed emotions. I realise my time in the NRL is up, but I’m delighted to be coming home.”
Saints fans have lived in hope that one day the one they regard as their own would come home.
Graham himself had never ruled it out, but never promised to return either. His NRL career went from strength to strength once he moved to Canterbury, peaking in 2014 when he was named the Dally M prop of the year. In reality, the prospect of a Super League return wasn’t a high probability until more recently.
But now it has happened. Graham has become something of a Rugby League treasure due to his passion on display week in, week out. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that his excitement to pull on the red vee is already at boiling point.
“Ever since I’ve known what Rugby League is, I’ve been a St Helens fan. I was in the Academy and junior system since 11 years of age, I made my first-team debut there, managed to win a couple of trophies there and even now I’m still a Saints fan and will be until the day I die. So, of course, it means a lot to me.
“I didn’t come here (Australia) with a plan that I’m definitely coming back and at different points in my time out here I’ve thought about the prospect of it, I thought about the possibility of coming back next season depending on how the body was going to hold up, but the opportunity came to come back now and it felt like the right thing to do.”
Graham has returned to Saints on a four-month contract. That, inevitably, has led to the question of retirement. Graham wouldn’t say if he planned to hang the boots up at the end of the year but he didn’t deny it either.
“I have spoken to St Helens and said I am all in for this year; that’s all I can promise and all I want to do,” he said.
“We’ll see what comes of it after that.
“The body feels pretty good actually. With the pandemic break and a few more games, I had been training most days until St George gave me the release. All I can do is my best for the club, the coaching staff and the players.
“I am coming home because I want to and St Helens want me to. I’m not going to guarantee success but I’ll try my best to give us the opportunity to do that.”