SENIOR England and Canterbury Bulldogs star James Graham believes the England Academy have what it takes to defeat the Australian Schoolboys in the two-Test series which kicks off in Canberra on Sunday.
Graham made history as captain of the 2004 England Academy side which became the first team to defeat the Schoolboys in Australia and has been impressed by what he has seen of England’s youngsters, who have recorded wins over New South Wales Juniors and Parramatta Juniors on tour so far.
“I think the boys looked good in action,” said Graham, who was on the sidelines as England beat New South Wales Juniors 28-18. “To come off a plane and come away with a win in less than a week is a big effort and they can be proud of their performances so far.
“Playing in the Academy side in 2004 is one of my greatest Rugby League memories and I learnt an awful lot from my experiences as part of that touring group.
“We came out and played against New Zealand before coming over to Australia and to be involved in that kind of tour and having that challenge in front of us was fantastic.
“The group before us in 2003 had run the Aussies really close so we were really fired up to try and emulate that and we spoke a lot about making history that year. The memories of that tour will stay with me for the rest of my life.
“It showed me what it’s like in the full-time environment and what it takes to be the best when you’re out of your comfort zone and the lads will learn a lot from this experience.”
Graham, who played a key role in England’s recent Gillette Four Nations campaign before moving to play in the NRL, also knows what it takes to make the step up from Academy level and he believes the current crop have the capacity to follow in his foot-steps.
“The lads need to work hard and believe in themselves and they’ll go well in the future,” added the powerhouse prop. “The Schoolboy players are very highly regarded over here and they’ll probably come up against some superstars of the future, just like we did, but they just need to put that out of their minds.
“If the whole group can remain focused on their own game and on their strategy I’m confident they can get the results they are looking for as they’re great players themselves.
“This tour will stand the guys in good stead to make the step up to senior representation later in their careers and I’m sure a lot of this group can do that.”
England Academy play the Australian Schoolboys in Canberra on Sunday August 5.