Wade Graham calls it limbo. That period in his life when his rugby league career was put on hold.
“My career has had two distinctive sections,” Graham said on his 27th birthday leading into his Kangaroos debut.
“There’s pre-ASADA and after ASADA.”
In fairness, there are probably three parts to the Graham story that need to be told.
There’s also the two-year period in between when a talented footballer’s promising career came to a grinding halt and put aspirations like Test football firmly on the backburner.
“It was hard to set goals and go forward, and figure out where we want to go because at that time we didn’t know where we were going,” Graham said as he reflected on the tumultuous period in his career.
“We didn’t know what the outcome was going to be. We were just living week to week and day to day … those two years put a big roadblock in front of everyone. After that I was able to start from scratch again. Start from club level again, start at Origin level again and start chasing this dream again.
“There was a long time where I didn’t enjoy footy. You get to training and we didn’t know what we were doing. Once we finally got a resolution – it was dragged on way too long. The best thing that happened to us was that we got a resolution. It wasn’t great for myself but at least we could finally move on with our lives.”
That saga, which drained the life out of everyone involved in the ordeal, now feels like ancient history for Graham.
He’s since won a premiership with the Sharks, represented his state, and on Friday night will wear the green and gold for the first time in the World Cup opener against England in Melbourne.
In a strange way, Graham knows one day he may reflect on the ASADA ordeal as the catalyst for his success in the third stage of his career.
He’s also stopped trying to wipe it from his memory. Because whether he likes it or not, the good, bad and the ugly has led him to the opportunity that has presented itself with the Kangaroos at this year’s World Cup.
“Hindsight is a beautiful thing,” Graham said.
“You look at our story and you think maybe we would not have been successful if we didn’t go through that as a club. I would have preferred not to go through it and gone the other way and tested my luck. But it’s part of my story. It’s part of my career. It is what it is.
“I came through the other side of it in possibly the best way. To win a premiership. Play Origin and now play for Australia. It is part of who I am and part of my story.
“I would love for it not to be part of my story. I would have loved to have a nice easy run but that wasn’t the way my stuff panned out. I’ve accepted that. the only thing that I’ve tried is to keep moving forward. The story isn’t finished yet. It’s on an up right now but you never know what’s around the corner.”