Gold Coast Titans forward Joe Greenwood to follow in James Graham's footsteps
When Joe Greenwood says he is looking forward to a coffee with James Graham the day before the Titans play the Dragons next year, and then belting him the next day, it is with the utmost respect.
Graham would no doubt endorse those sentiments expressed by the 24-year-old Gold Coast forward who learned plenty from the England star when they were both at St Helens back in 2011.
Greenwood was a rookie teenager and Graham a seasoned campaigner about to embark on his NRL odyssey.
“When I was coming through in my first year at St Helens he was there and did some work with us rookies and I took a lot on board from him,” Greenwood told NRL.com.
“James is there just to win and he is so good to learn off. He is a player I’ve always wanted to follow.
“After the game against Canterbury [in round 25] this year I had a good chat to him and he said ‘I’ve been watching you and I like the things you do’.
“He said if I wanted to have a chat about anything or a catch-up to let him know.
“If I’m playing against the Dragons next year I’ll look to have a catch-up with him for a coffee the day before the game…and then belt him the next day.
“That is part of rugby league. You have to do your job when you are on the pitch.”
Greenwood, who played 22 games for the Titans in 2017, has studied Graham’s game and said there was more to admire than just his warrior approach with the ball in hand.
“You watch him off the ball and when teams make a break he is always the last one there making that last bit of effort so they can’t get it under the sticks,” Greenwood said.
“He does everything for the team, so he’s selfless. He’s a good leader and the kind of person you want in any team.”
It is that ruthless and uncompromising ethos epitomised by Graham that the Titans are looking to bring to the table in 2018 under new coach Garth Brennan.
Greenwood won a Super League title with St Helens in 2014 and left a club with silverware overflowing in its trophy cabinet for one that is yet to make its mark, but he insists that is about to change.
“Garth drills into us every training session that we have to be the hardest team to beat,” Greenwood said.
“If the opposition do score we have to make it hard and not let any soft tries in.
“We want no-one to be selfish and everyone to be selfless. Everyone is buying into all that and it is looking good for 2018.
“St Helens has got a fantastic culture and the club has won a lot of silverware, but I came over here because I want to win things at the Titans. There is no reason why we can’t this coming season if we can all stay injury free and we can build some momentum into the season.”
Greenwood has aspirations to represent England. He made the train-on squad for the World Cup when he was still at St Helens and met with Wayne Bennett who endorsed his decision to take up a gig in the Telstra Premiership.
Missing out on the final squad has just made him hungrier.
“I tried to block it out and concentrate each game for the Titans and if I got the call-up I would have been over the moon,” he said.
“I was in the train-on squad but I just didn’t make the last cut.
“I still went and watched the boys and cheered them on in the final up in Brisbane. I was biting at the bit and wanting to get on there.
“I’ll always be pushing hard to play for my country. It is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Oldham-born and with brother James also playing in the Super League, the sport of rugby league was in Joe’s blood from a young age.
“I’ve always wanted to play rugby league,” he said.
“I’ve played it since I was five years old. My grandad got me into it and I’ve had a taste for it from there.
“It was a quick move from St Helens last year but to come over here and get an opportunity in the NRL was something I’d always dreamed of.”