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James Graham on Super League, Toronto Wolfpack and the future

19 November 2020, 5:07PM 0 Comments

Written by John Davidson

Photo by Getty Images

Former England captain James Graham has faith that the future of rugby league in the UK is bright despite the devastating impact of Covid-19.

Graham returned from the NRL mid-season to rejoin his former club St Helens.

The Coranavirus has had a huge economic affect on Super League and the rest of the rugby league pyramid, with the Championship and League 1 seasons cancelled and Super League playing behind closed doors for the past four months.

But the prop, who is set to retire in the next few weeks, believes the sport in Britain will be “OK”.

“I think if you have good people in there, smart people, even during tough times they’ll take advantage of it,” Graham said.

“Our sport is at an advantageous position because we are on a lesser of a budget we don’t lose as much. So maybe we can come out on top.

“Hopefully they’ve got the right people who can take advantage of the situation. Unfortunately a lot of people are going to suffer and it happens in financial crises and wars, a lot of people suffer but there are people who come out on top and take advantage of it.

“So hopefully the people involved with Super League and Rugby league are smart enough to take advantage of this situation in the long run. Our game struggles, it’s made a huge decision in not allowing Toronto not to play in the Super League next year.

“I hope they’ve thought long and hard about that because it seems a massive decision not to. But I think the game will be OK, there’s enough talent in the league.

“The difference between the top and the bottom is not that much, there’s still enough talent coming through to make this game thrive.”

Asked about the decision to block Toronto Wolfpack coming back into Super League next year, effectively killing the club, Graham replied: “Firstly, there’s people’s livelihoods at stake.

“It’s a human story. I’m good friends with a number of players who are there. It’s hard for me to sit back and see them suffer the way they have.

“Chase Stanley in particular who left here with his young family and no way of getting back to Australia. Not paid for six, seven months whatever it is, for me that’s not good enough. It just underscores how important that players union is.

“In Australia it kind of gets taken for granted a little bit, and you don’t need it until you really need it. And I think this is this a situation where, for one, if there was a really strong player’s association here that would have been sorted out – no, it wouldn’t have been allowed to happen basically.

“That’s the first one. In terms of Toronto, the game does need to expand and it would be great to have teams from all over the world playing in the Super League. But it’s got to stack up.

“You can say let’s just get a team from LA in, and New York and all these big cities and make it the worldwide Super League. But it’s not as easy as that. It’s got to make sense financially and logistically.

“I’ve not seen the Toronto case. From the outside looking in and the information I was privy to, the crowds were there, it seemed to be taking off. And it all seemed rosy before the Coronavrius kicked in.

“There was plenty of things going against them as well if you compared them to Catalans, where Catalans where they had no relegation for three years when they came into Super League. Toronto had to earn their spot and then weren’t taking a share of the TV money.

“Sometimes the people at the top have obviously made that decision. I’m sort of split in two as I’ve got roots in Cumbria and I think the game’s been forgotten there in one of its traditional heartlands.

“I’d like to see our game grow and see teams in North America, but at the same token it’s disappointing that places like Cumbria, in my opinion, have been left behind a little bit.

“But you need good leadership, you need strong people at the top and the decisions that they make, I’m hoping they make the right ones.”

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