Sharks co-captain Wade Graham.

How Graham got in touch with his Indigenous roots

Wade Graham is unable to play this weekend but he sure has embraced and connected with everything about the NRL's Indigenous Round.

A hamstring injury will keep the 27-year-old Cronulla Sharks co-captain out of Sunday's clash with the Raiders.

This week has been all about rehabbing his injury and embracing his own Indigenous heritage on his father's side, which he only got to understand fully after being selected in the Indigenous All Stars in 2016.

"My dad was out on his own a bit in Sydney after he was originally from Grafton," Graham told NRL.com.


"We always knew it was there but I didn't really find out the depth of it until the NRL gave me the opportunity to play in the All Stars game.

"That is when I sat down with Mark Deweerd and Dean Widders and they helped me look back through it.

"It was important for me to understand my Indigenous heritage and good for my family. That's why it is great to be part of weeks like Indigenous Round. It shows how the game can be used as a vehicle to help people in all sorts of ways and circumstances."

Sharks back-rower Wade Graham.
Sharks back-rower Wade Graham. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

The All Stars match will return to the calendar in 2019. Graham said "the whole week is brilliant" and in 2016 it proved to be a chance for him to get to know some of his own Indigenous heroes, including one former Manly great.

"I've always loved watching vision of Cliffy Lyons so it was brilliant to hang out with him during the week before the first All Stars game I played in," Graham said.

"Cliffy is now a finalist in the top 25 for the Hall of Fame so it was great to just rub shoulders with a guy like that. He is certainly a wonderful character and was a complete player who could run, kick and set other people up. He had a great gift for the game.

"That's why weeks like Indigenous Round are good to be able to sit back, reflect and celebrate past and present players and where the game is going."

Graham is also a genuine footballer, which is why he has targeted a round 11 return for the Sharks after not recovering in time for Sunday's clash with Canberra.

"It is pretty frustrating," Graham said.

"It is only a grade one hamstring strain so it is not as though it is a massive injury. It has got me a couple of times now and they are injuries you've got to be pretty cautious with.

"I'll definitely miss one game and hopefully I'll get back the following week but I couldn't be more proud of the way the boys have handled the last three weeks while we've been down on troops."

Graham remains confident he will be ready to answer the call of NSW selectors for the opening State of Origin clash in Melbourne on June 6 after playing in the last four Origins for the Blues.

His versatility off the bench is a valuable asset with his kicking game, ball skills and toughness all giving NSW more strike.

"The biggest thing for me is getting this hamstring right and getting back out on the field and putting some 80-minute games together. Hopefully, if I can do that then I will be around the mix come Origin time," Graham said.