Two days after his season was ended by an ACL injury that will result in surgery and months of rehabilitation, Cronulla back-rower Wade Graham is remaining positive about both his own short-term future and that of the Sharks.
This wasn't how it was meant to go. After suffering two hamstring injuries, a concussion, a broken cheekbone, and an ongoing groin injury, Graham had hoped the setbacks were behind him.
Hours after his season ended at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night, the new father arrived home Saturday night to his five-week-old son, William. That provided a welcome reminder that sometimes life's hardships are not as bad as they first seem.
"Footy is always a big aspect of my life, but it's not the whole part of my life. As much as I'm disappointed with the injury, there's a lot more to my life, this is just a setback," Graham told NRL.com.
"At the end of the day while it's very disappointing and I have no doubt it'll be a lot of hard work to get out there, it's just an injury, there's more to my life now, I've got my family and my friends, I'm healthy in every other aspect.
"There are people out there doing it tougher than me."
Who will replace Wade Graham?
Graham will see a specialist on Tuesday to discuss when he will have surgery. The plan is to return to the playing field next April.
It was only last week Graham told media how pleased he was to be back injury free in time for the finals.
"It's just been one thing after the other hasn't it, it's been a tough year, injury wise. It's been very frustrating, each time I worked hard to get back then something else would pop up," Graham said on Monday.
"In saying that, I'm grateful for the run I've had in the past, I've been fortunate enough to play over 200 games already and I'm only 28, I'm grateful for that."
Graham will now have to sit back and watch Cronulla's crucial elimination game against the Penrith Panthers who are coming off a rampaging win over the New Zealand Warriors.
If anyone knows the Sharks well it's Panthers playmaker James Maloney. He spent two seasons alongside Graham in the Shire, guiding the club to their first premiership in 2016.
"Naturally with a lot of players, you form a relationship from playing together and it often gets forgotten in the heat of the battle but Jimmy gave me a call, to see how I was," Graham said.
"He's going to be a big threat for Penrith [at Allianz Stadium on Friday night], they play with a lot of confidence when he's in the team ... he's going to be a big danger for us on the weekend.
"I've had a lot of messages in general, other players, other staff on other teams and obviously, the fans, they've been amazing. I haven't been able to reply to everyone, but I've had some wonderful messages, it's really comforting."
Graham's ACL injury will now give either Kurt Capewell or Scott Sorenson the chance to step up on the finals stage.
Capewell missed Saturday's game due to a ruptured testicle, but is tipped to be back in the side raring to go.
"Capey has a few hurdles to get over, but he'll certainly been there and done it before on the edge, so between him and Scotty, they'll pick up my minutes, they're more than both capable to fill that role.
"That's the one good thing," he says laughing.
"All of the injuries we've had, guys have been able to step in and do a great job and I have no doubt they'll step in and do the job again and in the future."
Graham's attention will now be focused on what he can do to help his side get through to next week.
"I still think the boys are a really good chance, if they get the win this weekend and can progress on to the next round, I'll be in the front row cheering."
Front row? So, no sitting in the coach's box with head coach Shane Flanagan?
"No no, I can't be up in the coaches box with Flanno, he uses too much colourful language for me," he laughs.
"I'll be down on the sidelines with the boys. I'll be there looking at the games like I'm still playing, I'll be chatting to Chaddy and Moyza [Moylan] about some ideas I have heading into games and I'll be there on gameday hopefully able to throw out some tips on whatever I'm seeing."
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