JAMES Roby is better placed than most to evaluate the qualities of and contribution made by James Graham, who will hang up his boots on Friday after a stellar 17-year career spanning both hemispheres.

And this week the Saints skipper spoke of his "privilege and honour" at knowing him for most of their lives.

The pair played schoolboy rugby together - first as opponents and then as teammates after Jammer joined Blackbrook Royals from St Helens Crusaders - and both came through the Saints system together.

And they took their double act to the highest level, coming off the bench as 20 and 21 year olds in the 2006 Grand Final winning team and going on to international honours.

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Roby, who turned 35 at the weekend, said: "We are from the same age group as kids and played against each other and then began being selected for town teams and then in our teenage years we played together and our story at Saints evolved at the same time.

"He has not really changed, to be honest, he’s always been big aggressive and angry. What you see is what you get and he has always stood out from eight-years old.

"He was the star player at St Helens Crusaders – when we played against them (at Blackbrook) we had to stop James Graham. He has carried that through in all of our junior years.

"He is a great bloke to have around and it has been a great privilege and honour to have known him most of my life."

Even when Graham departed to the join NRL with Canterbury at the end of 2011, the pair continued to play alongside each other in the Autumn internationals.

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But when Luke Thompson followed Graham's Bulldogs route to Belmore in the middle of lockdown, it opened up a gap for Graham to return for a final swansong in the red vee.

"It was a bit of a no brainer because what he brings on the field and his attitude and the way he carries himself off the field is brilliant," said Roby.

"He is great for a lot of young lads who have only seen him play over in Australia on the TV – to get the opportunity to work with him on a daily basis and see what it is about and what it takes to be a player at the top of their game."

Graham is still having to pass his daily head checks as part of the seven-day protocols after failing his HIA at the semi-final on Friday.

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Coach Kristian Woolf believes Grand Final victory on Friday would provide a fitting way for Graham to bow out.

"He's been a terrific player for this club for a long time and he was a terrific player in Australia," he said.

"He's a bloke who gives you absolutely everything in terms of passion and effort, and what he throws into every training session and every game. There is no better example for any young forward, certainly in our group, than James Graham.

“We have had to acknowledge it and want to acknowledge it but at the same time he does not like to make it very much about himself and talk about it as little as possible but we'd love to send him out on a positive.

“Wigan will be thinking the same with Sean O’Loughlin.

“With us it is not just with James, Zeb Taia has been a great player for this club in more recent years and had a lot of success here as well. We’d love to send them both off with a win."

Apart from those two, who are retiring, Dom Peyroux and Joseph Paulo will be joining Toulouse next year.