James Graham will retire at the end of this season having changed the standards for rugby league props.
“Jammer” became my biggest personal rival on the field at the start of his career, with our battles running alongside those between Leeds and St Helens.
He made me want to become a better player – that’s the best compliment I can give him.
He was always ultra-competitive and very fit, but the thing that made him stand out was his ability to play with the ball like a third half-back.
I loved playing against a player like that – he had a massive will to win and wasn’t afraid to mouth off and those are the challenges you look for on the field, especially as a prop.
He then went off to the NRL in Australia first with Canterbury and then St George Illawarra, and I always knew he’d be a success there because of the qualities he has.
The other thing that has always stood out about Jammer is his pride when playing for both England and Great Britain.
He put absolutely everything into it every time he pulled those shirts on, and was a player that led the side from the front.
Having played with and against him, I also worked with him on last year’s Lions tour when I was team manager.
I hadn’t been around him much personally while he was away in the NRL, and what was really noticeable was that he’d grown as a person.
There are different ways to lead a team and you could tell he understood that then.
He always maintained high standards as a player but I think he had a bit more rounded approach to how he was with other people.
He was always an outstanding player but I felt he’d grown as a man during that time in Australia.
Now he will be completely focused on finishing his career on the perfect high by winning the Grand Final with St Helens.
Grand Finals are always about two top teams, but they also have great personal stories within them.
There would be no better poignant way to finish a tough season than for James Graham to win the competition with his hometown club.
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