ST GEORGE Illawarra coach Paul McGregor has revealed James Graham is being driven by 11 years of grand final heartbreak and lifting his teammates to new heights.
McGregor heaped praise on the English international prop after he played an integral part in the Red V's NRL season-opening win over Brisbane.
While Ben Hunt and Gareth Widdop earned adulation for their star turns, it was Graham's efforts which McGregor said set the tempo for the game.
Graham was let go by Canterbury following the recruitment of Aaron Woods and is motivated to win his first NRL title.
He established a name for himself after helping St Helens to the 2006 Super League premiership but since then has played in a losing side in his last seven grand final appearances.
He tasted defeat with St Helens in five straight deciders from 2007 to 2011 before having the chance again slip through his fingers with the Bulldogs in 2012 and 2014.
Graham is a man driven to make up for his missed opportunities over the last 11 years.
"He's a person of good character and character is the glue to your roster and a successful team," McGregor said.
"It's always 'we' before 'me'. He's a good leader and he's got a great work ethic, you see the passion he plays with, he's got a good footy IQ.
"For me it's just a bloke wanting to do something in the game that he hasn't done yet. And that's win a grand final.
"And he'll do anything for this football team to be successful."
McGregor highlighted Graham's one percenters against the Broncos including at one stage making four tackles in a row and on another occasion forcing a Brisbane mistake off which his side scored.
"They get belief. Because they see how hard James goes about his business at training," McGregor said.
"He's not the quickest, he's not the strongest, he's not the biggest but what he does do is he's committed. He does extras when everyone else is finished training.
"He talks the right talk and he fights the right fights."
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