James Graham signed off his last NRL match with a salute
James Graham signed off his last NRL match with a salute

Reason Dragons star is quitting the NRL

Hard-nosed St George Illawarra Dragons forward James Graham has revealed why he's chosen to leave the NRL immediately in order to play out the remainder of the season with St Helens in the UK Super League.

Graham played 224 games for St Helens, the club he was "a fan since before I knew what rugby league was" before moving to Australia to play 186 games with the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Dragons.

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Graham also played 50 Test matches for Great Britain in an amazing career, aiming to finish the season with St Helens.

While many believe Graham's career will be over after this season, the 34-year-old said he would be back to Australia after his stint.

In emotional scenes on the weekend, Graham was embraced by his teammates and coaches in a great tribute to the tough forward after he shocked many last week when he announced he'd asked for an immediate release.

James Graham was never one to back down.
James Graham was never one to back down.

Speaking on Fox League's NRL 360, Graham said circumstances in his native England, along with the opportunity to finish his career where it all started, led to him asking the Dragons for a release.

"There were a few scenarios going around and some cause and effect situations back home and I had to think things through," Graham said on NRL 360.

"I had to work out what I wanted to do and what effect it would have back home and also on the Dragons as well.

"It wasn't an easy decision, but this gives me the opportunity to go home and finish my career where it all started and play out the next six months and then move on to the next chapter."

Graham said the decision to come to Australia was a nagging one to test himself in the NRL.

"I came over here as a 15-year-old, never really left England before and from then I pretty much thought if I ever get the opportunity to go over there and play I would," Graham said. "As things got on, it became a question for me that I just had to go and answer, can I make it out there, can I perform out there, can I try and excel out there? It was a huge decision in my life but it was something I figured I couldn't live with if I didn't go answer the question. I was always safe in the knowledge that I could go back and live in England if I had wanted to but I felt quite deeply that I had to go and answer and I'm really glad I did."

While the Dragons are now riding a two-game winning streak, just two weeks ago, Graham was left shattered as the side had no answers after a loss to the Canterbury Bulldogs.

James Graham took the Dragons’ losses pretty hard after the season returned.
James Graham took the Dragons’ losses pretty hard after the season returned.

But a pair of wins now has the team in a better position, but Graham hoped he wouldn't been seen as walking out on his team.

"Yeah it was tough, I'm not normally a quitter and I hope this doesn't perceive me as one," Graham said.

"You've got a coach there who I would walk to the end of the earth for and a playing group that I am incredibly bonded to.

"I think good times are around the corner. But I had to make it about me and the opportunity that was presented to me in order to go home and finish my career there was too difficult to say no to. After much consideration that's what I decided what I wanted to do and thankfully with St George Illawarra's blessing as well."

He said any finals matches as well ANZAC Day or Good Friday were also "pretty special".

 

Originally published as Reason Dragons star is quitting the NRL


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