Graham - Win would be vital
Saints prop determined to reach Old Trafford at first attempt
By Joe Drabble. Last Updated: 18/09/08 5:12pm
Graham: Rallying cry
James Graham has urged his St Helens team-mates to make sure they secure their place in the Super League Grand Final at the first attempt against Leeds Rhinos on Friday night.
"They (Leeds) have got a bit of form going into the play-offs and so it will be a tough battle."
James Graham Quotes of the week
Saints host their arch-rivals knowing a victory will put them 80 minutes away from completing the domestic double for the second time in three years.
The losers of the Knowsley Road clash, shown live on Sky Sports 2, will have a second opportunity to book their place in the Old Trafford final against the winners of Wigan v Catalans Dragons.
However, Graham has no doubt over the preferred route and believes a weeks rest is crucial ahead of the all-important showdown.
"The sooner we're in there the better," he said. "It's massive pressure on you the next week if you lose.
"I've experienced both sides of it and I'd definitely rather get in there and have another week off. You get two weeks to prepare."
Rhinos and Saints both head into Friday's match refreshed and Graham, who went with his team-mates to Madrid for a three-day break, believes the trip was invaluable at the end of a gruelling campaign.
"We've two, possibly three, massive games," he said. "I think it's more of a mental thing than anything physical.
"The body is aching and I think most players would say they're not feeling the best but your body is trained up now.
"Your match fitness is there and mentally you've got to get yourself though these games and put that extra mile in because the speed of the game goes up another notch in play-off football."
Four consecutive wins at the end of the Super League campaign saw Rhinos finish just a point behind Saints at the end of the regular season.
Brian McClennan's men scored 164 points during that run of fixtures and will head to the north west encouraged by their 14-10 win at Knowsley Road back in March.
Graham added: "Leeds are a class outfit. They've got a great set of forwards and some terrific backs with a lot of pace.
"They went through a sort of blip in the middle of the season but we didn't put much store into that. We knew their class would show at the end of the day and it has.
"They have got a bit of form going into the play-offs and so it will be a tough battle."