Bulldogs prop James Graham would help fill void at Dragons

James Graham would be the ideal player to replace the leadership void left by Russell Packer’s exit at St George Illawarra, according to powerful Dragons prop Paul Vaughan.

Take me on: Bulldogs prop James Graham will consider a move to the Dragons. Picture: AAP Image/David Moir

Take me on: Bulldogs prop James Graham will consider a move to the Dragons. Picture: AAP Image/David Moir

The Dragons are expected to table a formal offer to Graham in coming days, before negotiations open with the Bulldogs about paying the balance of his salary.

Canterbury are under extreme salary cap pressure and expected to offload a number of star players, including Graham.

And it’s understood the Dragons are poised to swoop with a two-year deal for the 31-year-old.

Packer has signed a four-year contract with the Wests Tigers and Vaughan is confident Graham would be perfect as his front-row partner next year.

“It would be great,” Vaughan said. 

“I think we’re going to lose a lot when Russell goes next year, he brings a lot. 

“He’s a great leader and just a great front rower, we’re going to miss him next year.

“If James Graham comes, he obviously an international and plays big minutes and get through a fair bit of work.”

Graham’s connection to English teammate Gareth Widdop is a major factor in the Bulldogs captain’s likely move to the Dragons.

While Widdop maps out his premiership blueprint to Graham, he’s also told Dragons teammates the experienced prop would fit into Dragons culture.  “(Gareth’s) mentioned a couple of things,” Vaughan said. 

“He’s just said he’s a great bloke and been in the game for a while, that he’d be a great addition.”

Graham has established himself as a ball-playing prop at Canterbury and while they’ve sunk from finals contention this year, has been a key part of their 2012 and 2014 campaigns when the Dogs made the grand final.

Gareth Widdop

Gareth Widdop

Vaughan, who was in the mix for State of Origin selection this year after a blistering start to his career at the Dragons after moving to Wollongong from Canberra, admitted he would like to add more variation to his own game. “Jack de Belin is probably the dominant ball-playing forward here,” Vaughan said. 

“It would only be a good thing if we have more options and creativity.

“It would good for me to learn a bit more ball-playing and verstility to improve my game, it’s a good quality to have.”

The Dragons must win Sunday’s showdown with Penrith at Pepper Stadium to keep their finals hopes alive.

  • NRL

Round 25

Sunday (4pm)

PANTHERS v DRAGONS

Pepper Stadium

TV: Live on Nine Illawarra and Fox Sports League