James Graham has averaged 95 running metres per game for St George Illawarra in the NRL.James Graham accepts criticism of St George Illawarra’s forward pack is warranted but insists the team’s poor form leading into the NRL finals will mean nothing against Brisbane.
The Dragons received a boost before Sunday’s elimination final with star forward Jack de Belin off the crutches and out of a moon boot on Thursday.
The NSW State of Origin lock didn’t train with the team as he races the clock to recover from an ankle injury but injured winger Jason Nightingale and five-eighth Gareth Widdop both did.
Centre Euan Aitken also also ran through a series of shuttles as he attempts to overcome a hamstring injury.
Regardless, de Belin’s inclusion would be a massive plus for an engine room that hasn’t helped the Dragons to a yardage win over an opposing team since round 16.
Broncos legend and former Saints forward Gorden Tallis was particularly scathing of the Dragons pack, who he accused of letting down under-fire halfback Ben Hunt.
And Graham said the commentary was fair game given the middle’s own form as the Dragons lost six of their last nine and fell from first to seventh.
“The criticism on Ben is unfair, as a 17 we need to do more,” the English prop said.
“Every aspect of the game affects the other aspect of the game.
“The forwards do have to bare the brunt of that, for some of the dip in form.
“I own up to that, I stand up as a man and take that.”
The Dragons are already without their leading forwards metre eater Paul Vaughan for the rest of the season with a foot injury, while de Belin is their second leading tackler behind hooker Cameron McInnes.
The middle will be vital this week, given the Broncos young pack has found form and confidence at the end of the season.
“It’s backs against the wall up in Brisbane,” Graham said.
“They’re heavy favourites and I don’t think it could be any more difficult for us. But we’ll be up for the challenge.”
While the Dragons are the biggest outsiders in the four finals week one games after their late-season fade, Graham pointed to the two points separating first from eighth as evidence they weren’t finished yet.
“So we’ve lost some games at the back end other teams had their losses spread out, their form dipped maybe at the start or middle,” he said.
“It doesn’t really matter now, what’s done is done …
“Form is a funny thing, sport is a funny thing. I don’t know anyone who understands it.”