Bulldogs muscle up for Graham reunion
James Graham has enjoyed a career by riding his emotions and Canterbury expect their former skipper to be at his intense best in the first appearance against his old club after being forced out last season.
While the Englishman's numbers have been down in 2018 in comparison to his consistent career at Belmore, his Dragons are leading the Telstra Premiership with a finals appearance all but locked in assuming they can get through the busy representative period.
Graham's departure at Belmore for the arrival of Aaron Woods has left Bulldogs fans with mixed opinions at the halfway mark of the season with their team languishing in 15th position.
His former teammates are expecting Graham to make things more difficult for his old club in the Queen's birthday clash on Monday.
"Bupa [Graham] played a big role and part here at Canterbury," centre Will Hopoate said.
"It's exciting we're coming up against our former fearless captain and leader. I've got used to it now; in the first couple of rounds it was a bit weird [seeing him] in red and white."
Graham continues to dine with his former teammates, recently catching up with back-rower Rhyse Martin, halfback Matt Frawley and forward Aiden Tolman in Cronulla – a trend that has occurred regularly despite the veteran prop's departure last September.
"He's honest, tough and a very passionate player and no matter who he plays for he'll give 110%, maybe 120 against us," Martin said.
"He'll want to prove a point and put on a show physically. I'm excited about that, he's supported me a lot since I've been here."
The Bulldogs have scored the first try in nine of their 12 games but have struggled to build any momentum to record just three wins.
Although their attack has continued to struggle, defensively the side are ranked ninth – with six losses by a margin of six points or less.
"If we had the answer I would tell you but it's hard to put a finger on it," Hopoate said.
"We just can't put the icing on the cake. It's something we are trying to figure as a team and be more ruthless towards the end of the game instead of going into our shell.
"I think we've got strike power to finish off games. I think it's more making the right decisions under fatigue and communicating clearer towards the end of games when everyone doesn't feel like talking.
"The little things will play a big part in us finishing games stronger."