THERE were tears of joy as Saints old warhorse James Graham signed off a stellar career on both sides of the rugby league world with a Grand Final win.

It was a just reward for the veteran prop forward, who won his first one as a 21-year-old in that all conquering team of 2006 and then endured five final losses in England and a further two with the Canterbury Bulldogs in the NRL.

But for Graham, it was still sinking in; the dramatic win, the Covid-impacted year and a career in the toughest of sporting frontlines that have earned him plaudits from both hemispheres.

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And he admitted to taking quite a few mental pictures when he surveyed the landscape at the end – the jubilant players against a backdrop of fireworks but sadly no fans.

Graham said: “Nine years ago, in my last game before I left, I was speaking to Tommy Makinson who was crying at Old Trafford because we had lost the Grand Final to Leeds in 2011.


“And now we are crying because we have won today and I will be forever grateful for this group of players for what we did as a group and on a personal note on how I finish.

“I was trying to stay calm at the end.

“Tommy’s drop goal has hit the post and Jack has run in and scored, but I wanted to wait – I did not want to do the celebrating before the TRY came up.

“And after that I wanted to take time to take some mental photographs and look around and have an appreciation of what the game has done for me.”

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James Graham in the thick of it. Pic:

Graham, who was Saints captain and in his prime when he lured to the NRL at the end of 2011, got his chance for a Saints swansong when Luke Thompson switched to the Bulldogs,

It was a void in the front row that the 35-year-old was only too willing to put his hand up to fill.

But Graham says it was not all about simply signing off with another ring.

“This is not why I came back; I came here to try and give myself and this group an opportunity and help as much as I could. It was not the be all and end all to win a Grand Final.

“Not many teams can go back-to-back and win Grand Finals.

“It has been an adversity-stricken year for a lot of people, but the way this group has driven itself I can’t speak highly enough of them.”

Included in that praise were the squad players who have played an invaluable role week-to-week, and there was a noticeably large cheer when the group of jacket-wearing non-players joined the celebrations at the end.

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“Sometimes that gets lost what those players have done, but this year without any reserve team games or any other games to play they have turned up every day, week in, week out to train.

“They have helped lay the platform as to why we have been so successful with their attitude and commitment,” he said.

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The team celebrates. Pic:

And of course, Jammer recognised how tough it will have been for the fans to have missed that – for many supporters the first final they have missed for several decades.

At the end of his post-match interview, long after the final whistle and just before the stadium closed, Graham wanted to have a last word for the fans and for also his family and friends.

“I know the fans have had a tough year with the Covid situation and not been able to watch us.

“They have continued to support us throughout this ordeal, and it has not gone unnoticed.

“I would like to thank my friends, my family and my fiancée and children for coming on this journey with me.

“They would go to the edge of the universe for me and I would for them and I am forever grateful,” Graham said.