The Edinburgh winger has revealed that he struggled far more than he thought he would in the empty stadiums last season as Covid kept the fans away.
Graham made a blistering start to the new campaign with a try double in the win over the Scarlets a fortnight ago and although Edinburgh suffered a setback in Benetton last weekend he can’t wait to take on the Stormers on Saturday at the DAM Health Stadium.
The new ground has accentuated the player-fan experience for Graham who is enjoying the proximity of the stands to the pitch and says it is “hugely different” to playing for Edinburgh on the international pitch at Murrayfield, their previous home.
“The fans are so close to the stand and you can really hear them. It got lost and you never really heard them in big Murrayfield which was understandable. We’ve been looking for this home for a long time. This is my fifth year at the club and that was probably one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in.
“You hear them so much during the match and you get that vibe and energy off them. If something good happens, like a penalty or a turnover they go crazy. That fills you with energy and you try and pass that on.”
It’s a far cry from last season as teams had to try to generate their own atmosphere by urging each other on and celebrating small victories during games. Graham admits he was surprised how hard he found it.
“It was great having the crowds back,” he said. “I really struggled without them. I always thought I never noticed the crowds but when they were not there I did not like it at all. I hated it.
“It did not feel right playing rugby in front of nobody so having them back has given me so much more energy. I absolutely love it.
“When we played the first game here against the Scarlets it was absolutely bouncing. They helped us to that win and no doubt if we had them over in Treviso too we would have got our win. I am so looking forward to Saturday. I can’t wait.”
With the Autumn Nations Series just around the corner, Graham’s return to full fitness is timely for Scotland. The winger insists his sole focus is Edinburgh at the moment but if he maintains his early season form he will be a huge asset for the games against Tonga, Australia, South Africa and Japan.
“We have three games before the Scotland games come around and there are so many boys playing well just now so nothing is guaranteed,” said Graham. “I have to go out there and prove what i can do for Edinburgh and hopefully I get selected for Scotland.”
The Hawick flyer missed the final throes of last season to undergo surgery but all went well and he insists he 100 per cent fit again.
“I had a good pre-season getting back from a shoulder injury and I feel really good, really sharp,” he said.