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Posted by RLPA

March 10, 2022

Graham: Have a plan for transitioning

When James Graham first arrived in the NRL from the Super League in 2012, Australia wasn’t really sure what to expect from the Englishman. But 186 NRL games later and a case can be made that he changed the game, redefining what it meant to play like an elite prop forward.

In a nine-season NRL career with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and St. George Illawarra Dragons, Graham played two Grand Finals for the former club (including as captain in 2014). In 2017 World Cup Final, he played for England in a nail-biting loss to Australia.

James left the NRL in 2020 and returned to the UK Super League, playing the final season of his career with St. Helens – the club he debuted for. His final game was the 2020 Super League Grand Final, with St Helens winning after a fairy tale finish.

In our series ‘Retired Rookies’, we catch up with some of the retiring Class of 2020 to find out what they got up to in their first year out of the game. James shared with us some retirement lessons and thoughts for the current crop of players.


What did you do in the first year of your retirement from NRL?

JG: “I had some surgeries and I worked in the Partnerships and Football department at the Dragons before the competition had to relocate to QLD. I also did some media work and a role with Classic Sportswear.”

What did you find most difficult about retiring from NRL?

JG: “Dealing with lockdown was more difficult once I’d retired.

“In 2020 I was at least able to go to training whereas in 2021 I wasn’t. I certainly noticed the difference!”

What do you wish you knew about transitioning that you didn’t know when you were playing?

JG: “Nothing really, I don’t think knowing would change anything.

“I was told of the potential difficulty but it needs to be lived.”

James Graham after the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldog’s 2014 NRL Preliminary Final

What would you tell a young player about retirement and transitioning?

JG: “Have a plan and make the most of your resources while playing. Especially the Education Grants.”

What is an area of growth for the game in regard to player transition?

JG: “Some form of medical check-up”

How did the RLPA and/or the Wellbeing & Education program help you transition?

JG: “I attended a workshop which really helped my thinking and I’m currently enrolled in a Diploma in Leadership and Management.”

James Graham before the England vs Australia 2017 Rugby League World Cup Final
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