Kent: Concussion on Graham’s mind
BY the time he rose off the grass James Graham knew he was cooked.
Inspiration and perspiration were done. The Dragons would have to finish the job without him.
This was Sunday in Brisbane and the Broncos were leading 10-8 and just 25 minutes of the game was done. Everybody expected Brisbane to win.
Graham was going about trying to change that in his own inimitable way.
He put a bead on Josh McGuire. He found Matt Lodge.
Then he went after Korbin Sims and got it just a little wrong.
Oh, Graham tried to argue at first. He pushed the trainers away and got to his feet on his own standing but he had been there often enough before that he knew it was futile. Even in the state he was in, his bell rung, he knew there are some concussions where there is no coming back from.
He was walked into the dressing room, resisting the help, and with concerned officials around him he began his concussion test but a short way into it he knew.
"I just looked at the doc …" he says.
He didn't bother finishing.
His guilt, then, was his. It was the same as always. It was for his team and for going missing when the job was not yet done. That's the sort of man he is.
There are two kinds of greatness in this game, one more obvious than the other.
The first is obvious. The sleight of hand of a Johnathan Thurston. The thrilling power of a Greg Inglis. The pure speed of a Josh Addo-Carr. The ones born with a little more talent than the rest.
The other greatness comes in effort. Whenever Graham walks into a dressing room it quietens a little, a confidence coming over the group.
Some have more to give. Some are prepared to give more.
Graham finds a way to get the job done. In the process, though, he is giving something he might never get back.
"I could talk for a very, very long time on this," he said on Monday.
There are countless types of concussion and no perfect way to count them but he has suffered his share and he knows that increasing science around it means he must be vigilant.
"I've actually done quite a lot of research on it all and given it many, many hours of thought and contemplation," he says.
So much is still to be learned about concussions and their long term affect. For years it was believed only fighters suffered any real long term affects. They were punch drunk, it went.
Too many hits to the head and they were drawing ducks on the wall and feeding them, but over time the phenomena leaked into other sports.
The NFL was recently forced to pay more than $1 billion compensation to ex-players after a court found the NFL held back medical advice, much like the tobacco industry hiding the link between smoking and cancer, that found a link between concussions and early on-set dementia.
After conceding his concussion test Graham headed to the sideline to watch his team pull off one of this season's more remarkable wins.
The fogginess of the normal concussion was absent.
"It came and went," he says.
"During the game it was a little bit strange watching it. There was a lot of emotion involved as well. If only I was still out there …"
Nobody has ever offered more of themselves for their team than Graham. A little piece of him stays on the field with every game and Sunday, even in his injured, he still wanted to be there on the field.
After earlier protesting the NRL's concussion policy, claiming players have a right to decide their future health, he has since thought about it a little more and what the consequences might be and he has tried to find his place of comfort in it all.
Two young daughters have led the change.
"What's their memory of their father going to be?" he says.
He has considered that a lot, as well as the man he is and what he must be, and what sort of father he is and the example he sets.
Every father wants to be a positive influence in his daughter.
"What's the meaning of life?" he says, and his answer is one he is comfortable with, as uneasy as it might be to others.
"Maybe the meaning of life is finding something worth dying for. For me, if I don't have rugby league, like … if you brought in protocol that said if you can only have X amount of concussions and then it's compulsory to give it up … what do I do? Do I sit around and watch daytime TV?
"Where does that feeling come from?"
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