James Graham was pushed out of Canterbury to make way for the arrival of Aaron Woods.Former Canterbury captain James Graham insists the Bulldogs have enough experience to ensure the turbulent board elections don’t interfere with their NRL pre-season.
Bulldogs football club members will vote on the future of the club at Sunday’s elections, after months of turbulent media coverage and recently reported legal action between current chairman Ray Dib’s supporters and Lynne Anderson’s reform ticket.
Graham was at times the face of the Bulldogs’ dramas in 2017, before he was eventually squeezed out of the club to St George Illawarra after salary cap pressure.
He also became well adept at dealing with dramas at Belmore, having regularly fronted the media alongside coach Des Hasler last year before he was sacked.
And while he is excited by the prospect of trying to impress during his first season at the Dragons, Graham insisted Canterbury’s off-field dramas wouldn’t be an issue for his ex- teammates when pressed on the matter on Monday.
“The boys there are too good, they know the drill,” Graham said.
“You have guys there like (new captain) Josh Jackson, Aiden Tolman, Josh Morris, they are going to focus the lads on doing the job on the field.
“Do you reckon guys like Jacko is going to let that interfere? Like you’re kidding me.”
Also working in Canterbury’s favour is the timing of the elections, according to Graham.
Sunday’s election will be held almost a week before Canterbury play their first trial against Canberra, and just shy of a month before their NRL opening-round clash with Melbourne in Perth on March 10.
“It’s in February before a ball has even been kicked,” Graham said.
“There are other people around the organisation as well who are going to be great at focus on the football.
“I can’t see it impacting things at all.”
Graham is into his fifth week of pre-season training in Wollongong, after having signed a three-year deal at the club.
Almost 400 games into his professional career after having run out for England, Great Britain, St Helens and Canterbury, the battle-hardened forward accepted the physical challenge of the contract but was confident he could be at his best for its duration.
“As it stands, yes,” the 32-year-old said.
“But I’m not naive enough to think that that might change, and I’m not naive enough to think that that might be the end either.
“You sign contracts because that’s what you’ve got to do.
“The focus is on this year. You can’t start looking too much further into the future.”
Regardless though, he said the passion that he’d become renowned for during his time at Canterbury wouldn’t change once he pulled on the Red V.
“When I’m playing I just like playing,” he said.
“The clubs and the country I’ve played for so far have really brought that out of me.”