Arriving at the Cronulla Club in 2011 as a fresh-faced 20-year-old from Penrith, Wade Graham will this afternoon celebrate his 150th NRL appearance against the Parramatta Eels.
Having celebrated his 100th appearance in Sharks colours – albeit with a loss – against Manly in Round 17, Graham will today play his 150th game in the top grade, when the side squares off with the Parramatta Eels at Pirtek Stadium.
The ‘Boy from Blacktown’ came into grade as a 17-year-old halfback, dividing his time between reading his HSC textbooks and the workings of opposition defences.
But having been moved on from Sydney’s western suburbs at the end of 2010, Graham found a new home at Cronulla – and he hasn’t looked back since.
The one-time ‘Punk’ from Penrith has grown and matured to now take his place in the Sharks’ senior players group, alongside Captain Paul Gallen, Michael Ennis, and fellow Blacktown City junior, Luke Lewis.
Forging a reputation as a hard-running, skilful left-edge back-rower, Graham quickly became a fan-favourite and won over the faith of the Sharks supporters.
And despite efforts from rival Clubs to snare his services in the midst of signing a new deal with the Sharks, Graham pledged his efforts to the Cronulla cause until at least the end of 2017.
Gallen – influential in Graham’s decision to sign with the Sharks ahead of the 2011 season – paid tribute to the 24-year-old in a recent interview with Fox Sports.
"For me, Wade Graham could be a captain at any level," Gallen said.
"Certainly, he'll be the next captain of Cronulla if he sticks around and signs a long-term deal.
"He's a future Origin player and if they're looking for someone who'll be around for a long time, then he fits the mould. I've got a lot of time for him and I also feel a responsibility toward him because I helped get him to the club.”
But not one to put his personal milestone beyond the emphasis of that on the team, Graham said he would prepare for today’s match alike any of the 149 gone before.
“(Parramatta) can go with anyone. They’re always hard to play at ‘Parra’ and we know we’ve got our work cut out for us,” he said.
“The rewards are there for us if we can get the result, but a lot of hard work has got to go into that result – obviously this week and next week.
“It starts for us at Parramatta.”
Career Statistics: Wade Graham (Prior to Round 25, 2015)
NRL Games: 149 (67 Wins, 3 Draws, 79 Losses)
NRL Debut: Round 15, 2008 (Penrith Panthers v St. George/Illawarra Dragons)
Sharks Debut: Round 1, 2011 (Cronulla Sharks v Canberra Raiders)
Tries: 30 (21 at Cronulla)
Points: 122 (21 Tries, 2 Field Goals)