Graham showing the way for young Dragons forward
James Graham had just finished his third training session since joining the St George Illawarra Dragons when he grabbed rookie forward Blake Lawrie and suggested they do some more fitness work.
As most of the Dragons players prepared for a run to the beach adjoining WIN Stadium after the gruelling session on Thursday, Graham and Lawrie continued to train together before joining their teammates in the surf.
"He has only been here a few days but he has impressed me," Lawrie told NRL.com. "You can tell how he has got to where he has and why he has played as many games as he has just by what he does on the training paddock.
"He is always working hard and he always does extras. He just pulled me aside at the end of training then and we did a couple of extras together."
Graham only began training with the Dragons this week following a trip to England and Canada to visit family after the World Cup but he is already demonstrating why the club was so keen to sign him from the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
With a number of promising young forwards in his squad, including Lawrie, Jacob Host, Hame Sele and Luciano Leilua, Dragons coach Paul McGregor is looking for Graham - who has more than 400 NRL, Super League and Test matches on his resume - to assist with their development this season by acting as a forward leader.
"You can just tell he has got a wealth of experience in his head," said Lawrie, who played six NRL matches last season. "Every little thing he has got to say something about he has got a different opinion or a different aspect."
Graham said he enjoyed mentoring younger players and was excited about the potential at the Dragons in coming seasons, with Lawrie (5 games), Host (19), Sele (15) and Leilua (4) all just 21 years of age but each having played first grade.
"As an older guy, I like seeing those younger guys coming through and seeing their careers develop," the 32-year-old English prop said.
"We have seen a few young lads here get that taste of first team last year, they have got that first season under their belt, they know what the NRL is about and what they need to do to play week to week and I think we will see some of them come to the forefront of this pack this year."
Known for his ball-playing ability as well as his toughness up front, Graham said he was happy to play either style depending on McGregor's wishes.
"If they want me to play with the ball or whether they just want me to tuck it up my jumper I will do that.
"The plan might differ from week-to-week but I have just got to fit into the team and play my role to the best of my ability. I am here to do my best and try to play the best I can. I just want to play well for this club."