No split loyalties for former St Helens and St George Illawarra Dragons star ahead of showdown

James Graham played more than 230 times for St Helens. Picture: SWPixJames Graham played more than 230 times for St Helens. Picture: SWPix
James Graham played more than 230 times for St Helens. Picture: SWPix
England internatonal James Graham played for both clubs, but his heart belongs to Saints.

Former Rugby League colossus James Graham will be hoping for double delight in the next few days.

The one-time St Helens and England international prop forward will be watching from the side lines as the Betfred Super League champions take on St George Illawarra Dragons in the first of  two matches Down Under on Saturday.

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Then two days later the 37-year-old is expected to be glued to the TV screen when his favourite soccer club, Everton, take on Liverpool in the Merseyside derby at Anfield.

Maghull-born Graham said: "It would be great if Saints could overcome St George, Everton beat Liverpool two days later and then the following Saturday lift the World Club Challenge against NRL champions Penrith Panthers.”

The Scouser played for St Helens from 2003 to 2011, moved Down Under at the end of the campaign and enjoyed spells at Canterbury Bulldogs and St George before returning to the Totally Wicked Stadium for his swansong season in 2020.

A Grand Final and Challenge Cup winner in his St Helens days, he will want his first senior club to emerge triumphant against both St George and  Penrith, even though he  currently operates in the the commercial and community section of his old Aussie NRL club, Canterbury, but there is no question where his loyalties lie.

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He said: "It is Saints 150 anniversary this year and to win the world club crown would be the cherry on the top of the cake. I did not grow up in St Helens but I’m an adopted son of the town who helped me fall in love with Rugby League."

He concluded: "Saints  are a model for sustained success and people can learn a lot from them."

Graham also praised the recent appointment of his old team-mate, Paul Wellens, as head coach at Saints and believes he is the right man for the job.

"He faces a tough and testing introduction to Rugby League at the highest level," said Graham, who insisted it would be foolhardy for anyone to write St Helens off as no hopers against the Aussies giants.

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Saints: Welsby, Makinson, |Hopoate, Percival, Bennison, Lomax, Dodd, Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Matautia, Batchelor, Knowles.

Subs: Lussick, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Sironen,Passi.

Reserves: Wingfield, Bell, Norman, Davies, Royle, Hurrell, Baxter, Ritson, Hill.

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