To all the naysayers predicting the Denver Test won’t work, James Graham has a simple message: they said the same thing about State of Origin.
History will show the interstate series, despite similar opposition from clubs during its inception, has gone on to be a raging pinnacle of the game. While only time will tell if the bold gamble to take the England-New Zealand international to the United States will make a lasting impact, Graham was hopeful it, too, could be the start of something big.
Heart on his sleeve: James Graham believes the England-New Zealand contest may rival State of Origin for intensity.
“It’s an important step,” Graham said after the captain’s run at Mile High Stadium.
“I’ve said this before, this could be like England and New Zealand State of Origin.
“If you look back at the history of State of Origin – so I've been told – allegedly it goes that it was never going to take off. The NSW and Queensland thing, the clubs didn’t want a part of it.
“I guess we’re probably in a similar situation here. It’s a process that I believe is worthwhile fighting through, fighting the opposition people that are against it.
“Hopefully this can be something huge. This is the first of its kind. Who is to say in 20 or 30 years this isn’t going to be one of those things spoken about in the same ilk. I don’t know.
“But I think you have have those aims. If you just aim for it to be a one-year thing … and not seeing any potential growth , I think it’s small-minded, to be honest.”
Both teams trained on Sports Authority Field on Saturday, local time, at the home of the Denver Broncos.
Denver Broncos long snapper Casey Kreiter was an interested observer and spoke to the Kiwi players afterwards.
“Everyone says you are going to kick the ball further and higher and it’s true,” said Kreiter when quizzed for advice on playing at altitude.
“But it comes down just as fast as it goes up, so just be ready for that.”
Asked if he felt there were many athletes capable of playing non-stop for 80 minutes, Kreiter replied: “I’m going to say no. I know even if I have to run a couple of sprints, I’m like, ‘Man, I really don’t want to do that!’
“I couldn’t even imagine running for 80 minutes straight.
“I’m really excited to see how it all works, how fast it is and take my minimal knowledge and enjoyment I have of the sport and see it at a bigger level.”
New Zealand coach Michael Maguire has opted not to appoint a captain for the match, believing he can make a better informed choice once he becomes more familiar with the candidates. Issac Luke, who will lead out the squad against England, revealed he could be pulling on the Kiwis jersey for the last time.
“We’ll see, I’m expecting another baby [when the season-ending Tests are played], Luke said.
“I will probably let the younger fellas take over. It could be [my last Test].”
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