Dolphin One Day Raider the Next

Phil Graham's head is still spinning after he rose from the Bundy Cup to the world's best league comp in just a few short months. If the Roosters had their way, Phil Graham would still be running around in the Queensland Cup for the Redcliffe Dolphins again this season. Instead, he finds himself at the Canberra Raiders, pushing for a top grade spot through some impressive trial performances.

The Roosters were keen for the fleet-footed Graham to remain another year with their Queensland feeder team in expectation he would continue to develop as a prospect. But on sighting the video of Redcliffe's Bundy Cup grand final loss to Toowoomba last year, Raiders coach Matt Elliott called Graham and suggested he might find a quicker route to first grade by coming down the capital.

" I was surprised [ to get the call ], actually. I didn't know what to expect," says the 20-ywar-old, who hails from Tamworth. " The Roosters offered me incentives to stay at Redcliffe for another year but I didn't really want to pass up this opportunity."

Graham played two seasons at Redcliffe, the first of which he describes as "average", after arriving from Wests Lions in Tamworth. A five-eighth through most of his junior football, Graham is being moved around between full-back, wing and centre as Elliott finds the best way to fit him into the team's make-up. And he's finding the higher standard of the NRL is "heaps good".

"The main difference [from the Bundy Cup] is just that the expectations on you to play well are greater," "My goal this season is to lift my standard a bit and be more consistent." The other big difference Graham has noticed is the intensity of the training. He is another player who to have benefited from the new exercise schedules implemented by head trainer Carl Jennings.

"I've put on a couple of Kilo's since I've been here," he says. "I'm up to 85 kilo now? the new eating programs and stuff have helped." Meanwhile, life in Canberra is agreeing with him- at least while the weather's still warm. " I'm sharing with Darren Mapp at the moment while looking for a place," Graham explains. "I'm going to share with a mate who's coming down from Tamworth. But I'm not looking forward to the cold - the boys tell me it gets really cold down here."

This article is from League Week February 27,2002