2018 recruit Graham ready for Australia
By Alicia Newton - NRL.com National Correspondent
English skipper James Graham paused to remember the last time he featured in a side that beat Australia. He looked up to the sky, went back year-by-year and even included the days he represented Great Britain in 2006 before he finally conceded.
"I've never been in a team that has managed to get a victory over them," Graham said.
"A very long time."
Graham has featured in eight clashes against the Kangaroos since the 2008 World Cup tournament for not a single victory.
On Friday it will mark 3281 days since he first took on Australia in a heavy 52-4 defeat in Melbourne. That's almost nine years.
The former Bulldogs prop said moving to Australia had allowed him to study up on how to beat the best players in the NRL, rather than watching from afar in the English Super League.
Graham has featured in some big clashes against quality sides at their peak during his five-year career in Australia – most notably in the 2012 and 2014 NRL grand finals.
"I'd only ever played against Australia once or twice before [moving to the NRL]," Graham said.
"Being in Australia has changed me. I know what I'm in for now. No matter what you do, you probably change who you are every three months – you're never the same."
England coach Wayne Bennett has named a 21-man squad for Friday night's clash that boasts seven players with NRL experience.
However Graham dismissed any talk players from the NRL were under extra pressure to deliver on the big stage given their experience against players from the stronger nations at a club level.
"There's always responsibility whether I was playing for St Helens or [the Bulldogs] in the NRL, it doesn't matter who you play for week-to-week," he said.
"Experience knowing what you go up against – we certainly have that playing against that [Australian] spine a number of times and the forward park.
"[But] the make-up of the team is very different.
"In terms of experience from previous [tournaments] – the '08 campaign probably wasn't the best in terms of performance and results.
"But then you look back on 2013 and we spoke about being competitive and that's what we did."
The 31-year-old also baulked at suggestions an old-fashioned forwards battle was on the cards following Sam Burgess's punching tactics on Graham's former clubmate David Klemmer in last year's Four Nations.
"I know David Klemmer very well and it's been fantastic to see his journey," Graham said.
"I do take a lot of pride watching him play for his state and country. I know better than most what he can bring to a football game.
"People talk about packs going against each other but I think the game has moved on. The game has honestly gone past that for me… the '80s with scrums and all that.
"It's now about the back three contribution – the wingers probably make the most metres in that middle of the field.
"Our focus isn't on one person."
Graham believes there is enough form heading into the tournament to suggest England can win over their doubters.
"You look for evidence and I can see that with how camp has been in the last 10 days," he said.
"You look back to the Samoan game (in May) and we had five days of preparation against the best Samoan team probably ever on paper.
"You want to be competitive and give yourself the chance to win – it's just about finding that edge in the crunch moments."