The NRL 360 panellists sat in stunned silence on Tuesday night as retired rugby league star James Graham weighed into the concussion debate, revealing he was prepared to keep playing the sport he loved even if it meant risking his life.

The former Bulldogs and Dragons prop, who became a cult hero in the NRL after moving over from the UK Super League, suffered multiple head knocks during his playing career but always ignored calls from pundits begging him to retire for his own good.

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In 2019 he said "it's my life, I'll do what I want to" and outlined all the research and expert views he'd sought around concussion, in defence of his decision to keep playing.

In a segment discussing the future of Roosters hooker Jake Friend, who was brutally concussed on the weekend, Graham said while he was playing he decided to prioritise the present over the future and added "maybe for me, finding the meaning of life was finding something worth dying for".

Graham admitted some of his previous comments about concussion were to protect his reputation as a footy enforcer with no fears, but didn't regret anything.

"I think it was well-documented that I said some things which were potentially me trying to portray that image and have that reputation of that's who I thought I needed to be," Graham said on NRL 360.

"That was my public persona and part of that was about having a reputation on the field as a guy that didn't really care and wanting to be that guy and wanting to be feared.

"As I went on the journey I asked the doctors some questions about the risks and then I asked myself some questions, and was I going to privilege the present over the future?

"And I decided that I was going to privilege the present over the future and I think I was willing to take on those risks. That's not discounting any of these terribly sad cases where we see ex-athletes in all sports have some serious degenerative brain issues."

Self-preservation wasn’t in James Graham’s vocabulary.
Self-preservation wasn’t in James Graham’s vocabulary.

Host Ben Ikin said it was "a profound question to ask" whether to prioritise his present career over possible future complications, given Graham is a husband and father with a family to think of.

The Englishman continued: "It is, but it's a very complex issue and I had to do some really deep thinking about what I wanted to do and what were the consequences of me hanging up the boots because of concussion or the potential for future brain diseases.

"Where was the purpose going to be filled in my life? I personally felt like I needed a cause. I thought about what's the meaning of life? Maybe for me, finding the meaning of life was finding something worth dying for."

South Sydney recruit Benji Marshall was blown away by his former rival's words.

"Far out man," Marshall said. "I get what you're saying but it's hard to hear."

Asked by Paul Kent if he still thought that way even in retirement, Graham added: "Rugby was the be-all and potential end-all of my life and I'll have to live with that forever."

Ikin ended the segment by saying: "James Graham, you never cease to amaze me."

 

 

 

 

Originally published as TV hosts stunned by NRL star's revelations



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