Rabbitohs star Campbell Graham was always going to play at the World Cup, he just assumed it would be for tournament minnows Scotland.
But Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga flipped the script and surprised plenty when he selected Graham, who had been overlooked for the New South Wales just three months earlier.
The Souths flyer repaid Meninga’s faith with a hat-trick against the Scotland in a dream debut against his dad’s country of birth, as Australia won 84-0.
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Graham admitted he was surprised to earn selection in Meninga’s squad and said he was feeling the pressure ahead of the clash in Coventry on Saturday AEDT.
“It felt pretty surreal, I was a bit nervous this morning waking up and it started to sink when I got to the ground that I’d be representing the green and gold,” Graham said on Fox League.
“Mal gave us a simple game plan and I knew if I stuck at that and ran hard that opportunities would come and luckily for us they did.
“(Dad) probably has mixed emotions but he’ll be all right, he’ll just go for the winning team.
“Nah it’s good, mum and dad made the trip out here and this used to be mum’s home town so it all came together pretty funny but I couldn’t have thought of a better debut really.
“I’ve got a lot family here and for me to represent them it’s a huge honour.”
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Graham finished with 134 metres from 11 carries, six tackle busts and two linebreaks to complement his three tries.
The 23-year-old vowed to represent Australia for as long as he could hold onto his jersey.
“I haven’t played (on the wing) in a while but with the quality of players it doesn’t really matter, they make it so easy for you, it’s just my job to finish,” he said.
“Maybe in a few years I could be representing Scotland but for now I’ll be holding onto this Kangaroos jersey as long as I can.”
Braith Anasta said Test debuts “don’t get any better” than Graham’s and described him as one of the most underrated players in the NRL
“I think he’s the best defensive centre in the game,” Anasta said.
Damien Cook, who plays alongside Graham at the Rabbitohs, echoed the sentiment and said his debut was reward for effort.
Cleary Masterclass in Kangaroos Debut! | 01:38
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“He’s a great player and you could tell the emotion behind his voice there when he was talking about how special this moment was to him,” Cook said.
“I’m just happy to see him get recognised for all the hard work he does, he might not score a lot of tries for South Sydney but it’s hard work and effort areas he does, getting us out of yardage and on the front foot and he’s done that for Australia today.
“I think he’s one of the best centres in the game defensively and that will be a big reason as to why Mal has him in the side because of how well he does defensively, because they know they’ve got the points across the board.
“He stood up and played well in the finals, and that’s when you need to in the big games and I’m sure that stood out to Mal and got him that call up.”
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