Graham set to realise childhood dream
Newly selected New South Wales Blues rookie Wade Graham looked calm and composed on the outside, but it was clear he was chuffed deep down after being picked to make his Blues debut in Game Two of the Holden State of Origin series.
The 25-year-old was on Monday night named in the NSW side to take on the Maroons at Suncorp Stadium on June 22 at the expense of the injured Boyd Cordner.
Graham had been on the verge of selection for a number of years but will need to avoid a suspension from the NRL judiciary for a high shot on North Queensland halfback Johnathan Thurston if he wants to realise his childhood dream.
Graham said he found out about his selection during a post-game interview on the Matty Johns Show on Fox Sports following his side's 13-10 win over the Cowboys before he celebrated the good news in the sheds with the rest of the team.
Graham told media he was "super excited" to be picked in Laurie Daley's side but said the enormity of the achievement still hadn't sunk in.
"It's hard to really process it right now because we've just come off the back of a game," Graham said.
"It's certainly something I've dreamt of ever since I was a boy, like most players playing in the NRL.
"It's hard to describe at the moment. I'll just let it process tonight. I'll get into camp and we'll go from there."
Graham said he hoped to do Cordner proud after his good friend was ruled out for the rest of the series with a foot injury he picked up in Game One.
"He got players' player in their first game so it's big shoes to fill," Graham said when asked about Cordner.
"He was one of the first people who texted me. I just checked my phone when I came off and he was one of the first blokes who texted me.
"I've had a fair bit of contact with him this week I'll go out there and try my best for him and for NSW and for myself."
While obviously proud of his own achievement, Graham acknowledged the support shown to him by his Sharks teammates after Monday night's win.
The 25-year-old and his teammates have been through a lot over the past few years with the ASADA investigation weighing heavily on the players over that period of time.
"As much as it means so much to me, I know I've got a lot of good mates in that team and they're super proud for me as well," he said.
"I've known a lot of those boys for a long time and guys like 'Lewy' (Luke Lewis) and Jayson Bukuya, obviously 'Gal' (Paul Gallen), we've been through a lot together at this club.
"To come through the other end of it and to be able to achieve something like this, the boys are super proud of me and to have that sort of mateship in and around the team is super."
Blues and Sharks skipper Paul Gallen said Graham had been on the cusp of state selection for a while and was confident he'd be able to handle the step up to Origin football.
"He's been knocking on the door for a couple of years," Gallen said.
"He's had experience in front of him in Ryan Hoffman for the past couple of years.
"Everyone needs an opportunity and that's how everyone gets their first shot through an injury or somebody being out of form. Unfortunately for Boyd he's injured and Wade gets his opportunity. I've got no doubt he'll grab it with both hands."
Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan said that while Graham hadn't shown too much emotion on the outside, he knew that "deep down he's really excited".
"He could have played at least the last two or three years," a proud Flanagan said.
"He's been through some pretty tough periods here at the club and it's a fitting reward or someone who's knuckled down and worked really hard. I'm so excited for him."