Graham's Dogs exit 'frustrating': Klemmer
As David Klemmer prepares to face off against his mentor on Friday night, the Kangaroos prop has spoken about the disappointment of James Graham's departure from Canterbury.
Klemmer, who is expected to start in the front row for Australia in the World Cup opener in Melbourne on Friday night, will go head to head with Graham when the Kangaroos square off with England at AAMI Park.
But the pain of the Canterbury club captain being squeezed out of Belmore is still raw for Klemmer, who admits he is in disbelief Graham had been forced out to St George Illawarra.
"It was pretty hard. I never would have thought that him, being our¬¬ captain, the club would try and move him on – that was pretty confusing," Klemmer told NRL.com.
"And how the club worked its salary cap, that was pretty head scratching to see how things panned out. It was very frustrating because you don't often see a captain moved on."
There was a bittersweet tinge to the drama for Klemmer. There isn't a Canterbury player happier than Klemmer about Aaron Woods' acquisition, however it was the signing of Woods that sealed Graham's fate.
"I didn't know at the time when we signed Woodsy that Bupa (Graham) was going to leave," Klemmer said.
"I thought that all of us might have been playing together. It goes back to the club and the people running the club back then. They signed people and knew how the salary cap was working. It was pretty disappointing, to be honest.
"When he told me after the last game that he was going, I told him 'thank you for everything you've done for me, I loved every minute of it'. He taught me to be myself. He told me don't try and be something that you're not. Never change for anyone and be true to yourself.
"He's just a good bloke. I'm so lucky to have played with him. He helped me coming into first grade. He nurtured me, he showed me the ropes and I loved playing with him as well because he was so passionate. He was always firing me up and helped me so much with my game."
Canterbury's decision to terminate Des Hasler's contract and the appointment of Dean Pay has created plenty of excitement at the club.
Klemmer, who has already been in contact with the new coach, believes the club's new look was needed for the team to have a fresh start.
"I'm like a kid starting high school. I can't wait," Klemmer said.
"I went in the other day and talking footy and I introduced Deano to my family. It's exciting. I can't wait. The club is going in a different direction, all these old-school players are coming back. Andrew Farrar has been appointed football manager and old players coming back.
"It's going to be a whole different vibe. The place needed a fresh start and [chairman] Ray Dib is doing an awesome job at the moment cleaning things up and getting things ready for us. It's something to look forward to."
There aren't too many fond memories Klemmer can recall from a nightmare 2017 season. His captain, coach and best friend, Josh Reynolds were squeezed out.
"As a person and as a footballer, last year tested your character," Klemmer said.
"Losing football games is not fun at all. You go up the shops and you have your own fans spraying you. No one was interested. Going to the games no one was there as well. That was hard. We weren't going out there to lose football games. We tried too hard sometimes.
"We didn't help Dessie the way we were performing. We can't dwell on it. It was pretty hard watching semi-final football and us not being there."