England connection begins with All Stars
Canterbury-Bankstown captain James Graham is embracing working with newly appointed England rugby league coach Wayne Bennett.
The pair are firmly focused on this week's Harvey Norman All Stars fixture, as the rebranded World All Stars attempt to defeat the Indigenous All Stars for the first time in four years.
It is the second time Graham has worked with Bennett and the England international likes what the master coach has to offer.
The appointment of Bennett delivers hope to England that they may bridge the gap between themselves and the top two nations of Australia and New Zealand.
With the Four Nations later this year Graham hopes Bennett may deliver England their first major trophy since Great Britain claimed the Rugby League World Cup in 1972.
"It's going to be very different. I've worked with him last year and a couple of days this year and he has been outstanding," said Graham.
"I think we've shown over the last couple of years we've been getting close and Wayne can help us bridge that gap between us and the top two.
"The most important thing for us will be to have the likes of the Burgess brothers, [Gareth] Widdop and important players like that fit and ready to play."
These thoughts are echoed by England teammate Tom Burgess.
Burgess, who will start in the front row for the World All Stars, says he is enjoying his first experience with Bennett because of the style of coaching the 66-year-old veteran has to offer.
"He's a great bloke and a really good coach," said Burgess.
"He has a laidback approach. He's been around the rugby league world for a while now and he can take that approach because he has so much experience.
"He has a calming effect with everyone and I think that really works.
"He is good at man management and that is really important especially when you get a group of blokes together who don't really know each other.
"It's good to hear that he is excited about the prospect of working with England."
These star players are just two of the many Englishmen who have come to the NRL in recent years.
Tom's brothers Luke, George and Sam Burgess have all made an impact at NRL level, as well as the likes of England internationals Josh Hodgson, Jack Reed, Sam Tomkins and Gareth Widdop.
Graham firmly believes the influx of English talent to Australia is only improving the standard of rugby league at an international level.
"It's a bit of a catch-22 – obviously it's good that players come over here and get to play in the NRL. It is a very different competition to the Super League – but the bad thing is that the standard of the Super League is often weakened because of all these players leaving," Graham said.
"The best thing about playing here is that it gives you the experience of playing against the superstar Australian and Kiwi players each week.
"It may sound stupid but you learn that someone like Greg Inglis is human and can be tackled whereas if you are just watching him back in England you think he is almost impossible to tackle.
"Playing against these types of players has helped my game and my headspace when it comes to internationals so the increased English presence here is definitely helping us compete with these players at an international level."