Rugby League’s Scouse custodian, James Graham will aim to join an elite band of British players next weekend when his Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs side take on Melbourne Storm in the Australian NRL Grand Final.

The former St Helens captain and prop forward moved Down Under to join the West Sydney club at the end of last season. And the flame-haired Liverpudlian has enjoyed a dream start to his NRL career, making a big impression amidst the traditional atmosphere of ‘Pommie bashing’ from some quarters of the Aussie media, quick to dismiss the promise of any English presence in their competition.

Graham’s Bulldogs team finished top of the table after the 26 weekly rounds to win the Minor Premiership trophy and today progressed to the NRL Grand Final after a 32-8 victory over South Sydney Rabbitohs, a side which featured English brothers Sam and Luke Burgess in front of over 70,00 at ANZ Stadium.

And ‘Jammer’ has won the hearts of much of the Canterbury fans  this season with his performances. Playing mostly from the bench, he has still being able to put in long minutes and produce the relentless workrate which made him such a renowned figure to the St Helens faithful back in England.

The former Man of Steel winner, who has enjoyed Super League, Challenge Cup and World Club Challenge success with St Helens will now hope to become part of an elite band of English players to have won a Premiership in Australia which includes Malcolm Reilly, Kevin Ward and Adrian Morley.

Canterbury will face Victorian giants Melbourne Storm next Sunday at ANZ Stadium and one Englishman is guaranteed to be celebrating with Graham’s fellow England international Gareth Widdop set to be in the Storm’s line-up.

And with the NRL salary cap to increase to $5 million from next season the growing English influence Down Under will be expected to continue with the crop of Super League talent likely to be tempted by the wages and lifestyle a career in the NRL can offer. Whilst the prospect may be a future worry for English rugby league, here’s to hoping that one Scouser will be celebrating in Sydney next Sunday.

Simon Mulligan