JAMES Graham saw his seven and hell – and his career – ended in the most dramatic way possible, then the tears flowed after one last day at The Office.
After more than 17 years and 477 games on both sides of the world, this is it for the St Helens and England legend.
It is a fair bet none of his time on the pitch has been as dramatic as the amazing last few seconds, which the action itself can best describe.
With the scores locked at 4-4 and one second remaining, Tommy Makinson’s drop goal attempt bounced off the post as the hooter sounded.
Then it hopped off the turf, back over the crossbar and teenager Jack Welsby touched down just before Wigan’s Bevan French.
Cue delirium and pandemonium. Saints did not even bother attempting a conversion as the title was theirs – according to prop Kyle Amor, the boozy bus journey back ended about 9am yesterday with them still in their kit!
And after seven straight Grand Final losses, five in Super League and two in the NRL, plus England’s 2017 World Cup final heartbreak, Graham goes out a winner.
A fan at Saints’ former Knowsley Road home when they produced the fabled ‘Wide to West’ try in 2000, he did it in the same blue beloved football club Everton wear and a message from the Toffees congratulated him on the stellar career he has had, rounded off by returning from Australia to where it all started.
And the fan of TV comedy The Office could not help but round off by quoting David Brent while summing up the craziness.
Graham, 35, said: “Saying I saved the craziest 30 seconds of my career for the last 30 is a good way of putting it.
“When I was a fan, I remember watching ‘It‘s wide to West’ and thinking, ‘That’ll never be beaten.’ I think young Jack did that.
“I know how the Wigan lads feel, I’ve had that numerous times, but you’ve just got to get back up. Your greatest glory is not never falling but rising every time you fall, David Brent by the way.
“I was trying to stay calm at the end. I just wanted to wait, I didn’t want to do the old VAR celebrate before and shoot your bolt. I just wanted to wait until the try was confirmed. I was like, ‘Just wait, just wait, just wait.’
“I wanted to try and take some mental photographs, look around and have a bit of appreciation for what the game’s one for me.
“This isn’t why I came back, I came back to help as much as I could, winning the Grand Final wasn’t the be all and end all.
“And to quote David Brent again, ‘If you’re facing in the right direction, all you’ve got to do is keep on walking.’”
The game was set up for an emotional enough finish as Jake Bibby’s try for Wigan set up the ultimate gift to the man he called his ‘best mate’ – late grandfather Roland.
But Lachlan Coote’s second penalty levelled the scores at 4-4 after Zak Hardaker’s conversion attempt actually bounced off the crossbar, then the Wigan man missed a long range penalty attempt with 90 seconds remaining.
That, though, was not the most unlikely thing to happen on a crazy night in Hull. One which even had veteran James Roby second guessing himself and telling his team-mates to hold the partying.
The 35-year-old skipper said: “Anything like that in the last seconds of a game is manic anyway but to do it in a Grand Final, a Saints-Wigan Grand Final at that, is unbelievable.
“It’ll get talked about for a long time and go down in history.
“Jack popped up from nowhere – I wasn’t sure if he’d got the ball down – then all the lads starting going mental.
“I got caught up in the moment then second guessed myself thinking, ‘Hang about, the ref might not have given it,’ and started telling the lads, ‘Stop celebrating, stop celebrating!’
“It was a bit of an anxious wait then they gave it and it all went mental again. I’m gutted the fans couldn’t be there as it would’ve gone off big style in the stadium.
“I wanted to watch it again just to experience it and the win’s the only thing I wanted for James. He can retire a happy man.”
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