St Helens prop James Graham has confirmed he will finish his illustrious career at the end of the Super League season.

Graham announced last month that his international playing days were over, having featured 53 times for England and Great Britain.

The 35-year-old has now decided that his club career will come to a halt, and he will be looking to sign off by winning the Super League title.

Graham, who signed a one-year deal with Saints in June, has made 234 appearances for his boyhood club Saints either side of a successful eight-year spell in the NRL and has scored 70 tries in 474 matches in total at club and international level.

He told Saints' official website: "Playing for St Helens and over in the NRL has been an absolute honour. I am gutted this season will be my final one as a player, but I came to Saints saying I would have one last all in push for this season and nothing has changed there.

"Finishing my career at my boyhood club was an opportunity that I couldn't resist. Unfortunately, I am gutted we have not been able to play in front of our fans as I know they feel every pass, every tackle and every run.

"I have even missed the opposition fans who would give me a piece of their mind.

"I have had so many fantastic memories throughout my career here at Saints, in the NRL and on the International stage representing my country. It has all been a huge honour."

Graham won a Grand Final ring, claimed three Challenge Cup winners' medals and was named Man of Steel during his first stint with Saints and also landed the Dally M Prop of the Year award while playing for Canterbury Bulldogs.

He was the only Brit in the World team XIII and was named best prop in the world in 2008 and could sign off with another Grand Final triumph, with Saints top of the table.

NRL finalists Melbourne Storm and Penrith Panthers dominated the State of Origin squads as the selections were confirmed on Sunday.

Ryan Papenhuyzen capped a wonderful season with a man of the match display in Sunday's final, as the Storm saw off Penrith 26-20.

The full-back is one of seven Melbourne players who will feature in the Origin match between New South Wales and Queensland, with the final additions having been revealed.

Papenhuyzen and Josh Addo-Carr will deputise in the NSW camp, while their Storm team-mates Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Brenko Lee, Christian Welch, Felise Kaufusi and Cameron Munster will link up with Queensland's squad.

Six Penrith players will also take part, with Kurt Capewell named in the Maroons squad and Stephen Crichton, Liam Martin, Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and Isaah Yeo selected for New South Wales.

Papenhuyzen may not get in ahead of James Tedesco – who was the player of the series in 2019 – for the Blues, though Storm coach Craig Bellamy is sure the youngster can have a big impact on the squad.

"[Papenhuyzen] has really matured this year, I'm sure he'd be the first one to say he's had a lot of help off Billy [Slater] and he's been very grateful for that," Bellamy said. 

"He can play a few other places and he's tough as nails and he'll give you some X-factor for a couple of other positions as well so I'm sure Freddie will be looking at him pretty hard to play on the bench."

The three-match State of Origin series will take place throughout November. The Blues are the defending champions.

Melbourne Storm head coach Craig Bellamy has hailed his side's NRL Grand Final win over Penrith Panthers as the most meaningful of his career. 

Melbourne ultimately triumphed 26-20 at ANZ Stadium after earlier racing into a 26-0 lead to secure the club's fourth premiership in the NRL era.

Bellamy's squad had been forced to base themselves at a Sunshine Coast resort from late June onwards after coronavirus cases spiked in Victoria, with some families uprooting and joining them. 

The side wore a 'V' on their jerseys in tribute to their home state and an emotional Bellamy was quick to praise his players' response to such challenging circumstances. 

"It's been difficult, it's been challenging, it's been different," Bellamy said.

"Even today, well, for me, it didn't really feel like a Grand Final because usually we come down three or four days before. We have fan days at home during the week and we didn't really have that the whole week.

"For what our guys have been through, what their families have been through, I probably would put it up at the top of the Grand Final wins that we've had.

"This year, there's been some circumstances and situations where I thought some of the guys might have wanted to pack up and go home.

"Especially the ones there that haven't had their families in the bubble. But they haven't, they all stuck there through some difficult circumstances at times. And the other big thing has been the support of the families.

"Hardly have they complained about anything and living in that bubble, away from home, has been difficult. That's what it was all about for us - the group with their families and playing for the people in Victoria.

"We got some real strength out of that."

 

Cameron Smith was relieved to cling on for victory in the NRL Grand Final, admitting Melbourne Storm "did it the hard way" after surviving a late rally from the Penrith Panthers.

Melbourne appeared on course for a comfortable triumph at ANZ Stadium when they led 26-0 early in the second half, but ending up hanging on for a 26-20 win.

Penrith scored four tries to come charging back into a contest that saw their opponents finish with 11 men, Jahrome Hughes and Brandon Smith both sent to the sin-bin in a dramatic conclusion.

However, Melbourne survived a desperation final play from the Panthers to prevail, securing the club's fourth premiership in the NRL era.

Smith was full of praise for Penrith, not just for their late rally but also a 2020 season that saw them win 17 games in a row heading into Sunday's clash, while also spoke of his pride for a Storm squad forced to leave Victoria due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We did it the hard way, 11 men in the end," Melbourne's captain, who scored one of his team's four tries, said in a post-game interview during which he refused to be drawn on whether he plans to prolong his career.

"Penrith were coming home with a wet sail and playing the footy that they've played all year, which has been terrific.

"As an opposition club and organisation, we've admired what Penrith have done. To win 17 in a row in this competition is a special effort, on top of what everyone has been through this year.

"If there was another couple of minutes on the clock, who knows what would have happened there. You've got to give credit to Penrith, they fought to the end.

"But I'm just proud of this football team, not just the ones that played tonight but the entire squad. We haven't been home for about five months and with the conditions that we've been under, it's a remarkable effort to be here tonight and get a victory."

A COVID-19 outbreak denied Melbourne home comforts, but Smith revealed overcoming adversity had created a bond within the group that will forever remain strong.

Justin Olam, Suliasi Vunivalu and Ryan Papenhuyzen also touched down for Craig Bellamy's side in the final, while their talismanic skipper booted 10 points.

"We've had some close-knit teams during my time with the club, but given the situation we've been here, pretty much living in each others' pockets for five months, it's something very different, something we've never experienced," Smith added.

"We grew as a unit this year and there are connections in this team now that we will have for the rest of our lives."

Cameron Smith played a starring role before Melbourne Storm survived a second-half fightback to beat Penrith Panthers 26-20 in a pulsating NRL Grand Final. 

Hooker Smith - potentially playing his final game - scored a try and also kicked 10 points to help Melbourne overcome the team who finished above them in the table.

Penrith had triumphed when the teams met in the regular season on their way to being crowned minor premiers, yet a first title since 2003 proved out of their reach as they were made to pay for costly errors at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Sunday.

Melbourne capitalised in clinical fashion, opening up a commanding 22-0 lead at the break that, despite the Panthers trying to claw their way back in the closing stages, set up the victory.

Justin Olam was awarded a penalty try after the ball was kicked out of his grasp in the process of trying to ground it over the line, while the Panthers' poor discipline allowed Smith to kick his team into a double-digit advantage. 

After Suliasi Vunivalu intercepted a looping Nathan Cleary pass and raced clear to score a second try, Smith collected a loose ball and darted over from close range just prior to the interval. 

When man of the match Ryan Papenhuyzen broke free from inside Melbourne's own half to cross early in the second half, the game appeared to over as a contest.

However, having seen two tries chalked off in the first half, Penrith finally opened their account when Brian To'o finished in the corner, the score awarded despite suggestions of obstruction in the build-up. 

Stephen Crichton added another try and when Josh Mansour raced through on the Panthers' left less than four minutes later, a miraculous comeback suddenly seemed a serious possibility. 

Yet the deficit was too much with the clock against them and Melbourne held on, even with Jahrome Hughes and Brandon Smith finishing the game in the sin-bin.

Cleary barged through as the Storm's 11 men were breached again in the final minute, though it was a mere consolation effort as Craig Bellamy's side sealed a fourth premiership in the NRL era.

Melbourne Storm's era of dominance has so far yielded two premierships, and they get another chance against Penrith Panthers on Sunday.

Led incredibly by head coach Craig Bellamy and captain Cameron Smith, Melbourne are in their fourth Grand Final in five years.

And their efforts so far in 2020 have been made even more special by the fact they left Victoria on June 24 due to the coronavirus pandemic. They have been away from home ever since.

The Storm are three-time NRL premiers, having had titles in 2007 and 2009 stripped following salary cap breaches.

But they have bounced back from that scandal and, with the help of Opta, we take a look at their dominance.

An astounding win rate

Melbourne were handed their salary cap punishment in 2010, and in that season were deducted points and barred from earning any for the campaign.

But since 2011, the Storm have incredibly won 186 of 260 NRL games, at a win rate of 71.5 per cent. The next best? Sydney Roosters – at 59.6 per cent.

That is 10 years of dominance, although it has included just two premierships – in 2012 and 2017. Melbourne have finished as minor premiers in four of those seasons.

In that period, the Storm have a for/against differential of plus-2,288. That is close to double of the Roosters (plus-1,290).

Finals dip

For all their dominance in the home-and-away seasons, Melbourne's win rate in finals since 2011 is 62.5 – which ranks below the Roosters (63.2). Bellamy's men have played in the most (24) in that period, but have been unable to capitalise regularly in the postseason. Interestingly, the Storm average fewer points against in the finals since 2011 (14.1 to 14.5), but their points for drop from 23.3 to 19.4.

Since 2011, six different teams have won an NRL premiership, with the Roosters claiming three crowns.

Only Wayne Bennett (34) has more finals wins as coach than Bellamy (26), as the latter aims for a third premiership.

The Storm face a huge test against the Panthers at ANZ Stadium, but another premiership would further emphasise a decade of dominance.

2020 NRL Grand Final Opta facts

- Penrith have won two of their past three NRL games against the Storm (L1) and will be on the hunt for back-to-back wins against them for the first time since 2005. This will be their first ever meeting in the finals.

- The Panthers have won each of their past two NRL Grand Finals (1991, 2003), after defeat in their maiden Grand Final berth in 1990. The Storm have won only one of their past three Grand Finals despite winning the second half in all three.

- Penrith have won their past five NRL games at ANZ Stadium by an average margin of 14 points per game, as many as they had won in their 21 games at the venue prior (W5, L16).

- No team has appeared in (nine) or won (five) more Grand Finals in the NRL era (1998-) than the Storm, while only Gold Coast Titans (0) had competed in fewer than the Panthers (one) prior to this campaign.

- Melbourne have made 12 successful intercepts in the 2020 NRL campaign, the second-most of any team in the competition behind South Sydney Rabbitohs (16).

- The Penrith Panthers have scored 24 tries on the back of a penalty this NRL campaign – the second-most of any team in the competition – while only the Broncos (122) have conceded more penalties than the Storm (119) this season.

Penrith Panthers ended a 17-year wait to return to the NRL Grand Final, beating South Sydney Rabbitohs 20-16 in a thriller at ANZ Stadium.

Ivan Cleary's side set up a clash next weekend with the Melbourne Storm, thanks to tries from Brian To'o, Tyrone May and Dylan Edwards.

Penrith's lone appearance in the Grand Final saw them beat the Sydney Roosters in 2003, and now they can target a second premiership.

It will be a battle between the two sides that were the strongest across the campaign, with Penrith having lost just one of 20 regular-season games.

In Saturday's preliminary final, Alex Johnston gave the Rabbitohs a dream start with a fourth-minute opening try, dotting down after captain Adam Reynolds put a perfect kick into the left corner.

Moments later, however, Johnston was at fault when he dropped a high kick and allowed To'o to barge through.

The Panthers were 12-6 ahead by the half-hour mark after May clutched a clever kick over the defence from Nathan Cleary, and a Cleary penalty just before the interval stretched their lead to eight points.

Dane Gagai snatched a try back for the Rabbitohs 10 minutes into the second half, making it a tight game again at 14-12.

Yet Isaah Yeo made a burst through the Rabbitohs defensive ranks and fed a short pass to his left, allowing Edwards to dart in under the posts in the 66th minute and stretch their advantage decisively.

Corey Allan pulled back four points for South Sydney, but Reynolds missed the extras and they failed to trouble the scoreboard again.

Melbourne Storm booked a place in the NRL Grand Final for the fourth time in five years with a resounding 30-10 victory over Canberra Raiders on Friday.

A three-try blitz inside the opening 10 minutes put the Storm en route to a showdown with Penrith Panthers or South Sydney Rabbitohs, as the Raiders missed out on an immediate return to the showpiece following their 2019 defeat to the Sydney Roosters.

Jesse Bromwich powered in for the first score of the game for Craig Bellamy's side, and Ryan Papenhuyzen followed it up by finishing off a wonderful team move ahead of an excellent solo effort from Suliasi Vunivalu.

Cameron Smith, who is expected to retire following his Grand Final outing next weekend, added a penalty before converting Justin Olam's try, which was scored after Nick Cotric failed to bat Papenhuyzen's grubber out of the in-goal area, to put the Storm 24-0 up after 25 minutes.

Cotric got the Raiders on the board before half-time but they were unable to significantly build on that and Dale Finucane marked his 200th NRL appearance by effectively ending the contest when he span over after the hour mark.

Smith produced an excellent tackle to stop Cotric short of the try line, but the Canberra wing doubled his tally with eight minutes remaining, yet there was no hope of keeping their season alive.

South Sydney Rabbitohs will face minor premiers Penrith Panthers for a place in the NRL Grand Final after producing another superb comeback to stun Parramatta Eels. 

The Bunnies came from 14 points down to beat the Newcastle Knights last week and trailed 18-8 at half-time at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday. 

However, they produced a magnificent 30-point second half to turn the contest on its head and prevail 38-24 on Saturday. 

A brace from Clinton Gutherson, sandwiched by a score from George Jennings, put the Eels in command at the break. 

But Liam Knight and Cameron Murray scored within the space of nine second-half minutes to give Souths a 20-18 lead that they extended in remarkable fashion.

Mitchell Moses had a seemingly simple penalty to level matters, but his effort cannoned off the post and rebounded to Jaxson Paulo, who surged deep into Eels territory. 

On the last tackle play, Damien Cook's kick was tossed up in the air by a desperate Gutherson, with Bayley Sironen there to touch down. 

It proved the pivotal moment in the game, which was effectively decided when Paulo intercepted Dylan Brown's looping pass to cross for his second. 

Jennings' second gave Parramatta a glimmer of hope before Cook danced his way over to book Souths' place in the preliminary final as they became the first team to overturn successive double-digit deficits in the finals since Melbourne Storm in 1999.

Parramatta Eels star Michael Jennings has been provisionally suspended under the NRL's anti-doping policy following a positive drugs test.

The NRL on Saturday announced Jennings returned a positive A-sample for banned substances Ligandrol and Ibutamoren, and three of their metabolites – the day Parramatta are scheduled to meet South Sydney Rabbitohs in the semi-final.

Jennings – a former New South Wales centre and Tonga international who won the NRL premiership with Sydney Roosters in 2013 – now has the opportunity to have his B-sample analysed.

The 32-year-old was tested on September 21 with the result received by Sport Integrity Australia on October 9.

It is a huge blow for the Eels, who are looking to reach their first NRL Grand Final since finishing runners-up in 2009.

"The Parramatta Eels have today been made aware of the provisional suspension handed down to Michael Jennings under the NRL's Anti-Doping Policy," the club's statement read.

"Details of that provisional suspension and alleged breach of the anti-doping policy will be outlined in an NRL Media statement to be distributed today.

"Michael Jennings has been stood down from today's game and ongoing training/playing responsibilities while the process runs its course, which under the policy includes the opportunity to have his B-sample analysed.

"The club has been in contact with Michael and will continue to offer him and his family our full wellbeing support."

Jennings joined the Eels from the Roosters at the end of the 2015 campaign, having previously played for Penrith Panthers.

He signed a new deal with the Eels in July, keeping him at the club through the 2021 season, with an option for 2022.

This season, Jennings has made 20 appearances, scored seven tries and supplied four assists.

Sydney Roosters' hopes of winning three NRL titles in a row are over after Canberra Raiders held on for a 22-18 victory in the semi-finals on Friday. 

Trent Robinson's team were bidding to become the first to three-peat since the Parramatta Eels did so between 1981 and 1983, but they were rocked by the Raiders' rapid start at the Sydney Cricket Ground. 

Josh Papalii, George Williams and Joseph Tapine all went over inside the opening 22 minutes as Canberra raced into a 16-0 lead. 

James Tedesco scored two tries for the Roosters but the Raiders held on, avenging their 2019 Grand Final loss to book a preliminary final against Melbourne Storm next week.

Papalii powered over for the visitors' first try and was then heavily involved as Williams crossed, with Tapine's fine solo effort giving Canberra a comfortable cushion. 

Tedesco finally got the Roosters on the board before the interval and Joseph Manu's converted try then brought them within four. 

However, Tedesco somehow failed to deal with Williams' kick, allowing Jack Wighton to score a fourth Canberra try and that proved pivotal, despite Sydney's full-back going over again.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs were too good for the Newcastle Knights as they pulled off a 46-20 win in an NRL elimination final on Sunday.

The Rabbitohs fell 14-0 behind early at ANZ Stadium before recovering in dominant style to keep their season alive.

Alex Johnston and Tevita Tatola each crossed for two tries for South Sydney in what was their first meeting with the Knights in the finals.

All four of the higher-ranked teams won in week one of the NRL finals, with the Rabbitohs advancing to a meeting with the Parramatta Eels.

The Knights made a flying start and led 14-0 after just 11 minutes.

Hymel Hunt dived over on the right after a Kalyn Ponga pass before Bradman Best scored after Lachlan Fitzgibbon broke the line. Ponga also booted a penalty.

But the end of the half belonged to the Rabbitohs, who scored 20 answered points before the break.

Corey Allan broke through some soft defence before Cody Walker went over.

Johnston then dived over down the left as the Rabbitohs drew level, before Damien Cook sped away down the middle to set up Cameron Murray to give South Sydney a 20-14 half-time lead.

Newcastle made an error-riddled start to the second half and Adam Reynolds' penalty extended the Rabbitohs' lead.

A mistake from Ponga gave South Sydney another opportunity and Tatola reached over to score.

The Rabbitohs added some gloss to the scoreline as Johnston and Tatola crossed to complete their doubles and Cook raced away 80 metres for the sealer, before Hunt scored for the Knights on the siren.

Melbourne Storm marked their 50th NRL finals match with an impressive 36-24 defeat of Parramatta Eels at Suncorp Stadium.

With a 61 per cent win rate from their previous 49 such games, Melbourne were firm favourites to triumph on Saturday as they became the first team to reach a half-century of finals games in the NRL era.

They were made to work by the Eels, though, the visitors scoring two tries in the first 22 minutes through Nathan Brown and Clint Gutherson.

Storm had 61 per cent of the ball in the first half but did not get points on the board until the half-hour mark, when Suliasi Vunivalu went over.

The excellent Ryan Papenhuyzen struck before the interval to level the scores at 12-12, before Josh Addo-Carr's try put them ahead.

Blake Ferguson made it 18 each, touching down from a clever Reed Mahoney kick, but Melbourne promptly seized control as Jesse Bromwich, Brenko Lee and Papenhuyzen all scored in the space of seven minutes to secure a sixth-straight preliminary final.

Shaun Lane got a late consolation as each side now look for good news on the injury front, with Cameron Munster hurting his right knee and the Eels, who face an elimination game next week, losing Ferguson and Maika Sivo.

Canberra Raiders survived a real scare against Cronulla Sharks before surging back to win 32-20 and avoid a shock elimination.

Canberra were firm favourites after dispatching the Sharks 38-28 a week ago but were second best in the first 40 minutes.

The Sharks, the first team in 25 years to reach the finals without a win over a top-eight opponent, were 14-10 to the good at half-time and could have had a more comfortable lead.

Tries from Ronaldo Mulitano and Blayke Brailey, combined with two penalties and a conversion from the boot of Chad Townsend, had Cronulla in a commanding position only for George Williams to intercept and sprint for the line with just two minutes of the half left.

Apparently galvanised, the Raiders assumed control in the second half, Jack Wighton scoring twice in three minutes before further tries from Williams and Elliott Whitehead, whose earlier fumble had allowed Brailey to touch down, ended the contest and set up a rematch with last year's Grand Final victors Sydney Roosters next week.

Sione Katoa's late interception and 90-metre sprint for the line reduced the deficit, but the Sharks' season is over.

Nathan Cleary was the hero with a brilliant hat-trick as minor premiership winners Penrith Panthers beat Sydney Roosters 29-28 to progress in the NRL finals.

A thrilling Qualifying final encounter on Friday saw Penrith reach the Preliminary finals after storming back from going 10 points behind in the early stages.

Cleary scored three tries as well as kicking four conversions and a drop goal, with Josh Mansour and Stephen Crichton also dotting down for the Panthers.

The Roosters, who will now have to face either Canberra Raiders or Cronulla Sharks in the semi-finals, made a fast start and came close to recovering in the latter stages but ultimately fell to a narrow defeat.

Early tries from Josh Morris and Freddy Lussick handed the defending champions the advantage but by the time the match reached the 50-minute mark, the Panthers had scored 28 unanswered points.

James Tedesco and Josh Morris crossed in reply for the Roosters, but Cleary's field goal ensured Penrith prevailed despite Angus Crichton's converted try setting up a tense finish.

Luke Keary tried to level matters with a desperate field goal attempt that fell short from 45 metres, allowing Cleary, the impressive Jarome Luai and the Panthers to celebrate as their fine 2020 season continued.

The NRL's Integrity Unit is investigating "very serious" allegations made against former South Sydney Rabbitohs player Sam Burgess.

A report in The Australian published on Friday accused Burgess of domestic violence and drug use, while claiming the Rabbitohs tried to cover up his actions.

Mark O'Brien, the lawyer acting for Burgess, refuted the claims with a widely released statement reading: "The allegations are false and constitute an indefensible defamation against my client.

"It is apparent sources of the false allegations are those currently in dispute with my client over various issues."

The NRL said its Integrity Unit has been instructed to launch a "comprehensive investigation" into the allegations made against the Rabbitohs and Burgess, who has stood down from his role as a coach at the team.

NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo said: "These allegations are very serious and I've instructed the Integrity Unit to investigate the claims as a priority. We will also seek the advice of police and other relevant authorities throughout this process. 

"This is new information for the NRL and it is important we now gather the facts. The allegations have not yet been tested and due process will be followed as we undertake a thorough investigation.

"There is no place in our game for violence, harassment or abuse against women. If anyone is found guilty of these allegations we will take the strongest possible action."

The Rabbitohs said they welcomed the investigation and will cooperate fully.

"The allegations in today's The Australian newspaper are very concerning and the club is treating them with the utmost seriousness," a club statement read. 

"There is no place in our society for violence, harassment or abuse against women. If anyone is found guilty of allegations of this nature, the club will take the strongest possible action.

"The club takes issues of drug use very seriously and has well-established policies and procedures in place around the use of performance enhancing or illicit/recreational/prescription drugs. 

"The club will continue to work closely with ASADA and the NRL which administer testing of the players. The club will also continue to work with the playing group to support their wellbeing and educate them about drug use.

"The Rabbitohs welcome the NRL Integrity Unit's investigation in relation to these allegations and will fully cooperate with the investigation. The club is supportive of Sam Burgess's decision to step down from his role at the club while the NRL Integrity Unit investigation is underway."

Burgess won an NRL Grand Final with the Rabbitohs in 2014 and returned to the Sydney club in November 2015 following a short and unsuccessful stint in rugby union with Bath.

He represented England in the 15-man game at their home Rugby World Cup in which they were eliminated in the group stages.

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