James Graham has declared the Canterbury leadership won’t alter his passionate approach to football after he was unveiled as the Bulldogs’ new captain.
Graham was officially announced as Michael Ennis’ successor at the Bulldogs’ NRL season launch on Thursday.
The 29-year-old prop’s ultra-competitive nature sometimes threatened to get the best of him in Canterbury’s charge to the 2014 grand final, but Graham says the captaincy won’t change his emotional approach.
“I have to stay as true to myself as I have in the past,” Graham said.
“There was a great sense of pride when the gaffer (coach) got me into his office to offer the captaincy, there was certainly no hesitation.
“To be chosen when there are so many other great players and great leaders at this club is very fortunate.
“I’ll have to deal a lot more with the referees, but I’m looking forward to that.”
Graham said he feared bad news might be coming his way when called into coach Des Hasler’s office two weeks ago, but was thrilled to leave anointed as the next Bulldogs leader.
“I don’t know what I expected, I don’t know what I had done wrong, I was just glad it was good news,” Graham said.
“It wasn’t about getting appreciation from Des (for accepting), it was a natural reaction.
“Everyone knew it was up in the air and the amount of great candidates we had, it was tough to choose someone.”
Graham joins the likes of Steve Price, Steve Mortimer, Terry Lamb and George Peponis as a Bulldogs skipper.
Frank Pritchard and Aidan Tolman have been installed as vice-captains.
Graham captained the Bulldogs in their 2014 grand final loss to South Sydney, with an ankle injury sidelining Ennis, who has now gone to Cronulla.
He also skippered England in the early stages of last year’s Four Nations, when Sean O’Loughlin was sidelined with a thigh injury, and led St Helens in his final season in the Super League in 2011.
Hasler said Graham was a player who led by example.
“James is a professional athlete who has shown a number of leadership qualities since arriving here at the club,” Hasler said.
“He leads from the front on the field and is a man that is continuing to look at different ways to improve his game.
“He is a mentor amongst the playing group and being a seasoned campaigner, he has the knowledge across all aspects of the game to help the club continue to move forward.”