James Graham has only been at the St George Illawarra Dragons for a couple of months but he is already inspiring his teammates in their mission to get their forward pack the recognition they deserve.
Graham, who has joined the club after a six year stint at the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, only begun pre-season training with the Dragons after the Christmas break following his starring role for England at the World Cup.
Fellow recruit Ben Hunt and Dragons forward Leeson Ah Mau have been amazed by Graham's work ethic on the training field and said the veteran prop had already made a significant impact on the club’s engine room.
The arrival of Graham, Jeremy Latimore and Mitchell Allgood, has given the Red V arguably the best depth in the forward stocks in the NRL.
“He’s the type of player you really want in your team and you want to play for,” Hunt said.
“The biggest thing James [Graham] brings is his leadership, I think everyone says that about him.
“The way he goes about his work and he does all the little things. He’s not a huge talker but he leads by example.”
Last season the Dragons forwards displayed an impressive performance averaging the most metres pre-game with 1706m, leading the competition for offloads with 353 and the greatest metres made from effective offloads with 110.6m per game.
Ensuring that the forwards bring and maintain that metre-hungry aggression this season, Hunt should have no trouble in adding support from his end and complimenting the Dragons natural offloading game.
“I watched a bit of the footy here last year and I think they had a great forward pack. They really backed that up I think in the trials, I was pretty happy with how they went,” he said.
“It’s [offloading] not something we plan to do it’s just the type of team we have.
“We got some really good off-loaders and they can create a different style of footy for us so if I can be aware of when that is coming and push up and try play off that.”
Ah Mau is similarly in awe of Graham's ability.
“We know what we are going to get out of him and everyone has already enjoyed taking the field with him,” he said.
“If we are not doing our job in the middle it’s going to be hard for our halves to play so we’ve really made a focus on laying that platform for Gaz [Gareth Widdop] and Benny [Ben Hunt] to do their stuff.”
For the Dragons going up against the Brisbane Broncos at Jubilee Oval in the first game to kick off the season, Ah Mau says it will be their defence that will determine the end result.
“We all know what type of players they are so as a middle we gotta keep working hard for each other and make sure that we are covering each other’s inside in defence.”