If James Graham has played his last NRL game, St George Illawarra have provided a fitting farewell.
In a gritty display synonymous with hard man Graham, the Dragons held on for a 20-8 win over an injury-hit Gold Coast on Saturday afternoon at a wet Suncorp Stadium for their second-straight victory.
Graham’s days at the Dragons appear numbered after the England forward had approached the club this week about a Super League return this year to join St Helens.
Graham is hoping to fill the vacancy created by St Helens prop Luke Thompson who has been released to play for NRL rivals Canterbury.
In telltale signs Graham’s 186-game NRL career was over, the Dragons forward was embraced by teammates after the fulltime siren.
Graham confirmed he would be leaving – but not certain when.
“I am unsure what is happening just yet. We will see what happens in the next couple of days and weeks,” Graham said.
“It is a bit weird being potentially my last game over here, but I just wanted to get the win for the team.
“My plan is to go to England and play out the season there. But after, I will still call Australia home – it will be pretty hard not to come back.”
Dragons coach Paul McGregor was coy when asked when he would know more about Graham.
“Soon – I am not sure,” he said.
“If James plays next week he will be all-in again; it hasn’t bothered him.
“(But) we had a couple of nice words (after fulltime) and, if it is James’ last game, we thanked him for what he brought to the club, had a bit of a moment there.”
Graham didn’t look fazed by the Super League speculation, coming off the bench in the 20th minute to amass 80m and 21 tackles to help the Dragons to clinch their fifth-straight win over the Titans.
It further eases pressure on McGregor who reportedly had been given four games to hold onto his job after the Dragons’ board had given him a reprieve a fortnight ago.
The Dragons have won both matches since the show of faith.
“There is definitely improvement in us but the good thing is when you are not playing at your best and you win, that is important,” McGregor said.
The match was attended by 1930 fans – mostly Gold Coast members – marking the first time NRL supporters had been at a game in Queensland since March 13.
The Queensland government announced this week that up to 2000 fans could attend stadiums from Saturday as coronavirus restrictions eased.
Gold Coast still managed a consolation try to Tanah Boyd in the 76th minute with one man on the bench after losing winger Phillip Sami (hamstring), centre Young Tonumaipea (knee) and Titans debutant, ex-Wests Tigers No.1 Cory Thompson (head knock).
The Dragons lost playmaker Adam Clune (head knock) in the final 10 minutes.