The Falcon talks Disney, dogs and David Attenborough

Downtime with… Newcastle and Scotland back-row Gary Graham

Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with? 

Some supermodel. Actually, no. My missus would kill me. I’d say David Attenborough. I’d love to have a chat with him. I grew up watching his programmes. It’s why I’ve got a lot of knowledge about some weird animals.

Who would you not like to be stuck in a lift with? 

Zander Fagerson. He’s got stinking breath. I’d pass out in minutes.

Greatest day on a rugby field? 

I don’t have to think too far back, the Calcutta Cup. It would have been fantastic to have a crowd but you didn’t need one. The occasion was still incredible.

Best advice you’ve been given? 

My dad (ex-Scotland prop George) told me to go on the field thinking that everybody’s better than you. It makes you think you have to try twice as hard to get up to their level. I’m not a show pony so I have to work my balls off. That’s basically the message. Be honest, work hard.

How different are you from your dad?

I’m a mixture of my mam and dad, which isn’t great because my mam’s a psycho and my dad’s a lunatic. I’ve got my dad’s anger and my mam’s loss of control.

How much do you love that beard? 

I said I wouldn’t cut it until Newcastle lost. We lost to Bristol but I wasn’t playing so that didn’t count. We lost to London Irish but I forgot to bring my clippers, so it survived again.

The thing that annoys you most in life? 

Everybody being so sensitive. Just get on with it. You can’t say nothing these days without being berated by somebody.

If you could have a superpower, what would it be? 

The power to disappear. I’d make myself invisible and slap one of the lads on the head and they wouldn’t have a clue. I’d get away with a lot on a rugby field as well. I’d ring up Richie McCaw and ask him what it’s like.

Any superstitions? 

I don’t know if it’s a superstition but my dad gave me a Saltire ring and I always ask my missus to wear it before I play. This is for any game, Newcastle or Scotland. I just like the idea of it.

If you weren’t a rugby player, what would you be? 

I’m already an electrician so I’d go into that. I’ve done a barber’s course so I could cut hair as well.

Your three dream dinner guests? 

I’d go with Attenborough again. Michael Jordan would get an invite and my third would be Mark Wahlberg. I’m a big fan of his films. The Departed, The Fighter. Brilliant movies. He looks like a cool guy.

What’s your guilty pleasure? 

A movie night with a Chinese. That’s me. Happy. Friday night before a game. Perfect.

Your biggest waste of money? 

My house. There are leaks all over it. I don’t tend to splash out on things, just this s***** house. I might put it on the market. Tell your readers it’s up for sale.

Greatest player you’ve played with?

I’d say Hamish Watson. An unbelievable player who still probably doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. His work-rate is amazing, his energy, power, everything.

If you could be one of your team-mates, who would it be? 

Finn Russell, because he’s on about ten times more money than I am. I think he could buy ten of me to play for his team.

What would your Mastermind specialist subject be? 

Disney movies. I watch them all the time. I’m big into my Disney. I was brought up on it and I’ve loved my animation ever since. The modern ones from Pixar plus your classics, your Mulans, Tarzans, Hercules.

There’s a new Mulan out, which isn’t animated, and I’d have watched it by now only I heard that Mushu the talking dragon isn’t in it, so I’m not bothering. Mushu is a critical character.

Your favourite photo? 

It’ll be my missus with my dog. We have a Basset Hound called Gerald. To be fair, he looks like a Gerald.

Most famous contact on your phone?

I think I still have Eddie Jones’s number.

In three words describe what it was like to beat England at Twickenham? 

Really f****** unbelievable.

Ultimate ambition in rugby? 

Getting some starts for Scotland and becoming a regular in the set-up. That would be fantastic. I got a couple of caps in 2019, then I had to wait until this year to get my third cap. That’s part of the beauty of winning at Twickenham. You cannot beat that feeling. You just want more.

This article originally appeared in the March 2021 edition of Rugby World magazine.

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