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Graham prepares to face familiar foes

Graham prepares to face familiar foes
Raiders forward Elliott Whitehead has been a strong performer in his first year in the NRL. Credit: Paul Barkley. Copyright: NRL Photos.

He may get enjoyment out of seeing them on the other side of the paddock but Bulldogs captain James Graham is well aware of the threat fellow Englishmen Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead pose to his side on Sunday afternoon.

The Canberra Raiders duo have been sensational for Ricky Stuart's outfit this season, with Hodgson in particular solidifying his status in the game by sitting atop the Dally M Medal leaderboard. 

Whitehead is no spring chicken either and has taken to his first season in the NRL like a duck to water on the Raiders' right edge. 

"It's plain to see that they're fantastic players. I've been fortunate enough to be around a couple of England camps with them and they're both really good blokes, like really good blokes," Graham said.

"'Hodgie' is just a guy from Hull and it is so funny playing against him because I can hear the Hull accent from across the park, which brings a smile to my face actually. But they're two lads that just enjoy working hard I think. 

"That's been the cornerstone of their success of why they have been in such good form over here. They're willing to work hard and then use their skills on the back of that. Both have been fantastic buys [for the Raiders]."

Whitehead and Hodgson were influential in the Raiders' 22-8 win over the Bulldogs seven weeks ago, in what was the first NRL game played at Belmore Sportsground for the season.

 


While Graham didn't go as far as believing the loss was embarrassing, he was keen to get down to the nation's capital and rip in. 

"Obviously playing here at Belmore means a lot to the fans and so the loss was really disappointing especially considering the circumstances," Graham said. 

"But I think we have moved on from that now and no matter what the result was last time, we're pretty keen to get down there and do our best."

The Bulldogs' last-start 32-20 win over the Roosters was one where the club ended a win-loss run they'd been dealing with since Round 2.

A "frustrating" period for the club, Graham wasn't getting ahead of himself either ahead of an Origin period where they will be without David Klemmer and Josh Jackson at the very least.

"I don't think we're giving ourselves too much of a pat on the back just yet. The plan wasn't to break this win-loss thing by just winning two games straight – we want to get on a roll," Graham said.

"There's a lot of improvement left in us I believe and I think we all know that. We're under no illusion that we need to play a lot better to get to where we want to be come September."

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