It is a move that has many Canterbury Bulldogs fans divided and unsure as to why the move was made or agreed to, but Englishman James Graham will no longer be at the club from next season after he signed a 3-year deal with the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Graham, who quickly became a club stalwart and eventually the club captain at the Bulldogs, gained a cult-like following for his red hair and beard.
His popularity among the fans was justified as nine times out of ten, Graham was the club’s key performer and the leader who galvanized the squad.
Bulldogs Chairman Ray Dib was quick to praise Graham for his time at the club and wished him the best at the Dragons.
“James has been an outstanding addition to the Bulldogs, since joining us in 2012,” said Dib.
“He is one of the great warriors of the game and has been a leader in every sense of the word at the club.”
Although they did not want to see the fan favourite go, Dib and the club are aware that rugby league is a business and that Graham made his decision.
“We are extremely sad to see him go, but we totally understand his decision to accept the offer from the Dragons, as it will help set him and his family up for the next three years,” continued Dib.
Everyone at the club wishes him all the best in the next stage of his career.”
Still only 31, Graham enjoyed a lengthy Super League career with St Helens prior to joining the Bulldogs and has since gone on to play for England 34 times in his career.
The 2014 Dally M Prop of the Year was a signing on the Dragons radar for a while and his signature aids the club in light of the loss of other forwards.
“It was no secret we were looking for a front-rower but we were prepared to be patient. We are now really pleased to secure James Graham on a three-year contract,” said the Dragons Director of Rugby League Pathways, Ian Millward.
“Importantly for the Dragons, we were looking for an experienced front-rower. James has played at the highest level in the NRL and on the international stage for England.”
Not only will he be a valuable addition on the field but the Dragons believe that he can provide key leadership skills to the younger talents coming through at the club.
“In addition given his leadership experience, he will be able to continue to support the development of the young forwards in our squad and development systems,” continued Millward.
“James will be a great asset on and off the field and we look forward to having him at the Dragons.”