St George Illawarra prop James Graham has mounted an impassioned defence of former Canterbury team-mate Adam Elliott and revealed he had been playing for three months with a wrist injury that requires surgery.
Elliott was hit with a $25,000 fine by the Bulldogs after photographs of him stripping off while dancing to Neil Diamond’s 'Sweet Caroline' during the club’s Mad Monday celebrations were published on the front page of a Sydney newspaper.
Asipele Fine was also fined $25,000, while Marcelo Montoya and Zac Woolford were docked $10,000 each for “unacceptable” behaviour that resulted in Canterbury being issued a record $250,000 breach notice from the NRL.
NSW Police later released a statement saying that two men, one aged 23 and one aged 25, would appear in Downing Centre court on October 24 after being charged with wilful and obscene exposure. It is understood the players charged were Elliott and Fine.
However, Graham said the incident shouldn’t tarnish the reputation of Elliott, who is a Ken Stephens Medal nominee for his work with Giant Steps Autism and the Special Olympics, as well as fundraising for bush fire victims in his home town of Tathra,
“Adam Elliott is a very good friend of mine, and it hurts me to see him go through this,” Graham told reporters at Dragons training on Thursday before the penalties were announced.
“Adam Elliott does so much for the community. The past few days really don’t define who he is.”
Elliott has also been criticised for drinking the day before he was booked in to have wrist surgery but Graham said the Bulldogs second-rower had delayed the operation for three months to help the club after a poor start to the season.
“He has been putting off surgery for three months just to get through the season for his team but people want to go after him and personally attack him for over indulging,” Graham said.
The former Bulldogs captain was measured in his comments about the Mad Monday incident but took aim at what he described as the “outrage culture” which prompted such a heavy punishment against the club and players.
Graham also expressed concern about the relationship between players and the media after the Daily Telegraph's coverage of the club's Mad Monday celebrations on the third floor of the Harbour View Hotel.
“I’m not a fan of the outrage culture, not a fan of the telephoto lenses, not a fan of some of the cheap media that’s been around it,” Graham said.
“Why was it just Canterbury’s Mad Monday that was photographed. There were seven other teams and I reckon if you went to every single club’s Mad Monday you would find something for the outrage mob to be outraged about.
“We talk about having access to the players for the media and the fans, do you think this is going to help.”