James Graham of the Bulldogs.
James Graham of the Bulldogs. DAN HIMBRECHTS

Emotional James Graham pays tribute to Josh Reynolds

JOSH Reynolds described it as the toughest decision "I have ever had to make in my whole life".

You suspect the news hit Bulldogs skipper James Graham just as hard. He certainly sees it as a hammer blow to his playing group.

Graham was still reeling 24 hours after Reynolds phoned him and delivered the verdict.

Canterbury was losing one of only two local juniors in its top squad - trumped by a bumper $3 million, four-year Wests Tigers deal that smashed its own offer by about $800,000.

"It did rattle me, I still am a little bit," an emotional Graham said on NRL360 on Wednesday night.

As the first Bulldogs player to react publicly to the loss of a fan and club favourite, Graham chose his words carefully and spoke with candour.

He said what everyone in the game already knows, but needed to be said again anyway, in a simple yet poignant tale about the club's favourite Grub.

"Since I've been involved at the club (Reynolds) has been the glue.

"There was a day last year; a couple of lads had children's birthdays on the same day.

"Josh was the one that was at Josh Morris's house in the morning in Caringbah North, went over out west to Greg Eastwood's child's birthday and later on he was in Maroubra at Moses Mbye's party.

"He was the only one that was everywhere because he means so much to everyone in the organisation."

Asked last season what his proudest moment in the game was, Reynolds brushed his Origin debut and 2014 series win, disregarded his first NRL game, or the two grand finals since.

He plumped instead for a cold Monday night at the end of June 2015, when 16,000 rabid Dogs fans bellowed his name at Belmore, demanding his inclusion in the contest against Melbourne.


Josh Reynolds of the Bulldogs.
Josh Reynolds of the Bulldogs. PAUL MILLER

The passion Reynolds has for all things blue and white is why he's waived the 10-day cooling off period on his Tigers contract.

Now he's given his word to the western Sydney rivals, he's wary of emotions making him go back on it.

Graham is of a similar ilk, and himself has done a few rounds in the NRL's speculation spotlight of late.

"It's only a natural thing to feel worried in terms of your future," he admitted.

The 2018 marquee signings of Aaron Woods and Kieran Foran mean more Bulldogs will have to be shown the door, though it's believed Graham won't be among them.

Much the same as Reynolds, the big Brit's devotion to the Bulldogs cause has been has palpable. It has clouded his judgment in the past.

But here he spoke with clarity to match the quiver in his voice. And he nailed it.

"Rugby league, it's a made up game with made up rules, and it's just a sport to some people, but it brings people together," Graham said.

"I was living in England six years ago and I flew over to Australia and Josh has become one of my best friends because of this sport that we play and the emotion involved in it and the rollercoaster we've been on.

"It's not unique to the Bulldogs and me and him but I'm really saddened that he's not going to be there next year, it will be very, very strange.

"Because he means a lot to me, he means a lot to the team, he means a lot to the fans and the community around the team.

"He's going to be a huge loss."

News Corp Australia

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