James Graham is shaping as Canterbury’s next skipper after Michael Ennis and former Bulldogs’ captain Andrew Ryan says he’s the allround package.
Retired Canterbury premiership-winning captain Andrew Ryan rates James Graham as one of the most complete footballers to ever pull on a Bulldogs jersey.
Ryan, who captained the NRL club to their 2004 premiership victory, has played alongside some of the great forwards of the past decade in Sonny Bill Williams, Steve Price, Willie Mason, Nathan Hindmarsh and Mark O’Meley, but says he hasn’t seen a player quite like Graham.
Canterbury will need to appoint a new captain next season to replace the departing Michael Ennis and Ryan has endorsed the English star as an “inspirational” option.
Ryan played under Queensland and Test prop Price when he first moved to Belmore from Parramatta and believes Graham has a similar ability to lead.
“He’s outstanding. He’s got everything,” Ryan told AAP.
“He’s a competitor, he carts the ball up hard, he’s aggressive, he defends hard and then his ball playing ability.
“The thing I love about him the most is his never-say-die attitude.
“They’ve got plenty of leaders … but you can see him on the field. He’s a big talker, certainly motivates the guys. I know they love playing alongside him and training alongside him.
“He’s already been a leader for England and he’s a super player.”
Graham is the firm favourite to replace Ennis, however there are other well-credentialed candidates including Frank Pritchard, who was actually co-captain of the club this year before he suffered a serious pectoral injury in the early rounds.
Trent Hodkinson and Aiden Tolman are others who would come into contention.
However, Graham’s rousing addresses to his team have been captured by the television coverage in recent weeks and the body language of the players around him suggests they’re all buying into the messages being delivered by the 29-year-old.
Ryan has also gone into bat for Ennis – with the controversial hooker copping a barrage of criticism in recent weeks for his baiting of opposition players.
Asked if Ennis could potentially retire from rugby league without many friends, Ryan said the Bulldogs skipper had the support and respect of the playing group and that’s all that matters.
“I guess everyone who plays alongside him, they know the kind of guy he is,” said Ryan, who played with Ennis for three seasons at Canterbury.
“It doesn’t look like (controversy) has affected him. He’s a winner, he wants to win, so he does whatever it takes.”