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Graham timing astray again around Origin

Wade Graham's State of Origin debut two years ago was delayed due to an untimely suspension and this time around he's missed selection again because of his recent hamstring woes.

The Cronulla star, who evaded a one-match ban at the NRL judiciary on Tuesday night for a dangerous contact charge on Newcastle fullback Kalyn Ponga, is keeping his chin up on the representative front, hoping he will get another chance to force his way back into the NSW team later in the series.

Graham, who played all three games for the Blues in 2017, was overlooked for the 2018 Holden State of Origin opener next Wednesday in Melbourne due to an injury-riddled start to the NRL season.

The talented back-rower missed rounds seven and eight with a hamstring tear, but came back too early in round nine and was forced out for another fortnight.

Graham had played under NSW coach Brad Fittler in two City Origin sides and had been looking forward to linking with him again.

"Freddy gave me a call and we had a quick chat along the lines of how much footy I'd missed over the previous month-and-a-half," Graham said of the tough conversation last weekend.

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"It's very disappointing not to be playing. I would have loved to be there.

"But playing one game in five or six weeks leading up to it [team selection] meant it was always going to be difficult.

"It's a long series so I'm cheering on the boys – like everyone else in NSW – and hoping they do well in Melbourne. I'll be playing as hard as I can at Cronulla and if an opportunity comes up later in the series, I'll be ready to go."

That quest was helped greatly with the three-man panel of former players Mal Cochrane, Sean Garlick and Dallas Johnston clearing Graham of putting dangerous pressure on Ponga's neck in last weekend's 48-10 win over the Knights.

It means Graham is free to play with the Sharks in Friday night's round-13 match against South Sydney at ANZ Stadium, where the Rabbitohs will be minus captain Greg Inglis, hooker Damien Cook and back-rower Angus Crichton.

The visit to the judiciary, however, sent shivers up Graham's spine in one sense.

It was two years ago that he was charged with a reckless high tackle on Johnathan Thurston and was forced to miss Origin II – which would have been his debut for the Blues.

He was picked for Origin III in 2016 but the memories haunted the 27-year-old as he was back before judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew on Tuesday night.

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"I was just thinking that if I got picked in Origin on Monday it would have been 2016 all over again. My head would have been falling off," Graham said.

Still, he is watching from the sidelines as Fittler's team prepares for the MCG clash with Queensland. But Graham can't find fault with any of the 11 debutant selections.

"It's a good position for NSW to be in because they've had a lot of players doing extremely well," he said.

"All the guys who are in the team deserve their opportunity and I hope they go well."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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