One win from eight grand finals makes for shocking reading. Sure, some Rugby League players have long careers and never make it to the big dance, but James Graham surely must feel like he is a tad cursed.
The English prop won his first Grand Final, with Saints over Hull FC in 2006, in just his fourth year of Super League. But since then he lost five Grand Finals in a row with St Helens, before heading down under in 2012. With the Bulldogs he has lost two deciders in three years, against Melbourne in 2012 and against Souths on Sunday.
You’ve got to feel for the bloke.
Graham is an outstanding player – tough, hard and uncomprising. One of the best forwards in the world, a great defender and with great hands. He has the pass of a halfback and an engine that keeps him going all day. He’s a leader, a warrior and just a brute force.
Sam Burgess certainly found that out in the NRL grand final. When the game was barely six seconds old, the first hit-up of the match, Graham’s hard head broke Burgess’ cheekbone.
It was an amazing scene and the Souths forward went on to make history, staying on the field to help the Bunnies to a famous grand final win.
Graham did everything he could to help Canterbury over the line, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
What surprised me was that Des Hasler took the Maghull-born front-rower off for a large chunk of the first half and a part of the second. Surely Graham is the sort of player you want on the field for as long as possible?
An inspirational figure and a match-winner. Someone who’d rather die on the field rather than lose, just like his compatriot Sam Burgess.
Souths and the Burgess boys may have got the cash on Sunday but Graham can keep his head up. After three seasons in the NRL he just seems to be getting better.
He won the Dally M prop of the year this year and the Bulldogs will be contenders again in 2015. With their young NSW Origin halves, gigantic forward pack, Hasler in charge and possibly a new fullback on the way, Manly flyer Brett Stewart and Broncos custodian Josh Hoffman are rumoured targets, the Dogs will be up there.
And leading from the front as always will be the large Liverpool lad.
It wouldn’t surprise if James Graham finds his way into another NRL grand final soon and this time comes out victorious again. He’s due.