Queenslander behind Blues star’s Origin return
Wade Graham's State of Origin comeback is made phenomenal by the fact that he has played just 87 minutes of football since September, when he required a knee reconstruction.
And in a statement that will put the Maroons on notice, the Cronulla co-captain has declared he's stronger and fitter than at any other point in his 12-year career.
Graham, 28, has been named on the NSW Blues bench to face Queensland in Origin II at Optus Stadium in Perth next Sunday night. It will be his fifth appearance in the sky blue jersey - and his first Origin match since game three, 2017.
Graham's comeback is more phenomenal because he has played just 87 minutes of football since September - when he required a knee reconstruction.
From the moment he emerged from hospital following surgery last year, Rockhampton-raised physiotherapist for the Cronulla Sharks, Sam Madden, has been by Graham's side.
"I had a lot of emotions when I got the call that I was in the NSW team,'' Graham said.
"I thought about how it's been a long road back and how I'm not the only one who has travelled on that road.
"I'll never forget, from the very first day after the operation, Sam Madden had a recovery plan mapped out for the entire nine months that I would be out. And I mean every step.
"Every appointment and every increase in my load and training, Sam and Andrew Gray (Sharks head of high performance) were there for me.''
Gray is highly regarded for his world-class level of sports science, while Madden, a former physiotherapist for the Broncos and currently the Australian Kangaroos, joined the Sharks before their 2016 grand final win.
Madden said the only person that deserved praise was Graham.
"He was without fault in everything we asked of him - and it's been a long, isolated journey for him,'' Madden said.
"No matter when, where or what was involved, he was extremely professional and now it's paying off for him."