JAMES Graham arrives in the UK this week to prepare for the second Saints chapter in his illustrious rugby league career.

He will slot into Kristian Woolf's squad in place of Luke Thompson, who has gone the other way and is expected to make his NRL debut for Canterbury Bulldogs against Brisbane Broncos this weekend.

Before his flight out of Sydney yesterday, England and Great Britain prop Graham, who left Saints for the NRL in 2011, reflected on his time in the Australian competition with Canterbury and St George Illawarra Dragons while also looking forward to returning to his boyhood club in a mid-season move that caught many by surprise.

Q: The timing came as a bit of a surprise to us all, James?

A: “It happened really quickly. I was on the phone to Paul Wellens (Saints assistant coach). He sort of mentioned that there was a high probability of a spot becoming available in a couple of weeks.

"That gave me some time to pick over it and then a couple of phone calls with Mike Rush (chief executive), there was no promises either way, it was just an idea, and it grew.

"The more I thought about it the more I thought it was the right decision.

"There was a lot to weigh up personally and professionally, to leave my teammates back here.”

Q: Was it always part of the plan to try and end your playing career at Saints?

“I didn’t come here (Australia) with a plan as such in terms of when I would definitely come back. And at different points in my time out here I’ve thought about the prospect of it.

“I was thinking about the possibility of coming back next season depending on how the body was going to hold up. But the opportunity came up to come back now, I had some time to think about it and it just seems like the right fit and the right thing to do.

"The body’s been pretty good. We had a couple of games, then a long rest with the pandemic break, and then a few more games.

"I’ve been training most days ever since St George backed the release. I’m feeling fit and ready to go.

“I’m coming home because I want to, and also because St Helens want me to come home as well, and there’s an opportunity there.

“I’m not going to guarantee success or anything like that, but I can tell you I want to do my best to give ourselves the opportunity to do that. I think that’s what most teams will be looking to do.”

Q: How does it feel to be returning home?

A: “There was a lot of mixed emotions at first, realising that my playing time in the NRL was up.

“But the opportunity to return home is something that I’m really excited about. I’ve been on the phone to a couple of lads and I’m genuinely excited to get back and play for the club.

“I guess there’s a bit of fortune there with the opportunity coming as it has and I’m delighted to get the opportunity to try and force my way into the team and play for St Helens again."

Q: Does St Helens hold a special place in your heart?

A: “Yes, very much so. Ever since I’ve known what rugby league is I’ve been a St Helens fan.

"I came through the junior system, the academy system, since 11 years of age, made my first-team debut there, managed to win a couple of trophies there, and left on good terms.

"And even now, I’m still a St Helens fan and I will be until the day I die. So the opportunity to play for this club means a lot to me, of course.

“I had a huge desire to test out what Australia was like, both living and workwise.

"I stayed for another deal and then another deal after that. And at different points I’ve thought about the prospect of coming back, how that would look and what it would mean. But circumstance means an opportunity came to go back to Saints and I feel really fortunate that these things have fallen into place and I get the chance to wear the St Helens Red Vee again.”

Q: How has the NRL changed you and what do you feel you can bring to the team?

A: “No matter what you do, you change as a person all the time, you get exposed to different people and different ideas.

"I’ve played under some great coaches and I’ve played with some great players as well, so I’ll bring plenty of experience and I’ll promise to do my best and that’s as much as I can give.”

Q: Is part of the reason for coming back wanting to get into coaching?

A: “That’s a question for another day. I’m passionate about our game. It’s all I’ve ever known so ideally I’d like to stay in the game but at the moment the concentration is doing my best for St Helens and that’s all I can do.”

Q: How do you feel about the kind of arena rugby league currently is when it starts again next month?

A: “It has been strange for a lot of sports. I’ve had the first-hand experience of playing behind closed doors and in front of minimal crowds as well, adhering to protocols on a daily basis.

“It’s different, but it is what it is. The alternative is no sport, so I know what I’d rather be doing.

“I think we’re fortunate that the people involved have managed to get it back on August 2.

"I can’t wait to play, all being well the fans will be back soon and that’s something that will be pretty special to play in that new stadium with a full house. I never got to do it, it was unfortunate we played that last season of mine at Widnes but I’m just delighted to be back and in hope that the crowd will be back sooner rather than later.”

Q: As a Blue, you’ve picked the worst time in the last 30 years to be coming back to Merseyside haven’t you?

A: “Yeah, but you’ve got to give congratulations to Liverpool – as much as it pains to say it.”

Q: How proud are you as a British forward of the legacy you’ve left in the NRL.

A: “Being British or English isn’t part of it, I’ve just tried to be me and do my best for myself and my teammates at the clubs I’ve represented.

"I’ve not really thought of it as leaving any sort of legacy for other British forwards. I’ve just tried to be myself and the best person."

Q: Did you receive an emotional send-off from the lads at St George?

A: “Yes, of course. I’ve had a great two-and-a-half years there and any time you say goodbye to teammates, it was the same at Canterbury, it's emotional to say bye to the players and staff that you become close to.

"You spend more time with them than you do your own family so of course it’s quite sad to say goodbye but there’s some lads down there who will be friends for life.”