Wade Graham, visibly emotional, announced his retirement at a private gathering in Sydney on Tuesday night, surrounded by his nearest and dearest, along with former and current teammates. The ex-Test, NSW State of Origin and cherished Sharks co-captain, choked back tears as he confirmed his departure from the sport at the conclusion of the 2023 season.
The festive event was arranged to recognise Graham’s admittance into a coveted short-list of the club’s legends, such as Paul Gallen and Andrew Ettingshausen, who have partaken in more than 250 premier league games for Cronulla. This significant milestone was reached by 32-year-old Graham, during Sharks‘ triumph over South Sydney last Saturday night.
Graham felt that amidst staunch supporters, it was the perfect moment to confirm the 2023 season as his concluding one in NRL; an illustrious career that began with his Penrith debut in 2008 when he was merely 17.
Present at the ceremony, organised at the Sharks Club in Kareela, were the most significant figures in Graham’s extraordinary career, including his wife Karianne and his family. It was also graced by 2016 premiership-winning colleagues including Paul Gallen, Michael Ennis, Luke Lewis, and former coach Shane Flanagan.
Graham, renowned for his deft ball-handling and rugged defence, transferred to the Sharks from Penrith in 2011. A persuasive call from Gallen and Flanagan influenced his move, which ultimately transpired to be the turning point in Graham’s career. His time with the Sharks led to his Test and NSW State of Origin stints and his integral role in the Sharks’ historic 2016 championship victory.
In a tribute video unveiled prior to his celebratory match last Saturday, Ennis lauded Graham as one of the most all-rounded footballers he had frequently played alongside.
Ennis said of Graham, “I can’t say I’ve played with a more complete backrower someone with his vision and range of skills, and, most importantly, his ruthless determination to win, was something I cherished being a part of.”
Graham’s aptitude reached its peak during the game two of the 2019 State of Origin series, in which he was instrumental in piloting the Blues to a 38-6 win in front of a crowd of 59,000 fans, besides starring in the back row for the Sharks in the 2016 Grand Final.
In the penultimate home game of his career, Graham is set to lead the Sharks in their battle against the Titans at PointsBet Stadium on Friday night, with an emotional round 27 clash with the Raiders yet to follow.