Grif f in at home with Storm

By Paul McBride

West Coast home-grown Melbourne Storm NRL player Slade Griffin took time out to relax and catch up with family and friends in Greymouth at the weekend, saying it was good to be ‘home’.
“It is my week off after playing Penrith last weekend so I decided to come home and touch base, I love coming home and catching up with everyone, love the feel of the town, the greenery — it’s different to city life.”
It is a fleeting visit for the former Cobden-Kohinoor and West Coast age-group player, who flies out to Melbourne late on Monday evening to link up again with his Melbourne Storm squad and coach Craig Bellamy.
Griffin has played five games for the NRL side and is currently understudy to team captain and hooker, Australian skipper Cameron Smith.
His rise into the world’s toughest rugby league competition has been progressive. Scouted by former Kiwi coach Frank Endicott while playing age-group league for West Coast, Griffin joined Canterbury in the National Rugby League under-18 competition before being picked up by the Melbourne Storm.
“Frank (Endicott) is my manager and initially I had three clubs looking to sign me. The Warriors, Cronulla and the Storm were pretty keen but in the end I picked the Storm,” Griffin said.
“At the time I was playing centre.”
As a raw 17-year-old, the former West Coaster made an immediate impact in Australia and was named player of the year in the S G Ball Cup competition before making the New South Wales under-18 side.
He was named inaugural player of the year for the under-18 Melbourne Storm and was soon making his mark in the under-20 grade.
“We won the under-20 competition but I had injured my ankle (fracture). In 2011, I moved into hooker and had a really good year. I was named player of the year that year,” Griffin said.
“Last year I was upgraded to the NRL squad but in my first trial game I did a cruciate ligament, which put me out of action for a year. I did it hard sitting out the season, it was pretty distressing, but I set myself some goals with my trainer and at the end of the year I was right.
“I played a couple of pre-season games this year for the Storm at hooker and played a couple of games in the NSW Cup, which is a good, tough competition consisting of all the fringe players in the NRL. Craig (Bellamy) gave me the call up in round one.
“My first game in the NRL was against St George. It was pretty surreal, I was pretty shocked when I was told I would be playing. I was nervous but mum (Deborah) and my uncle Wayne had been flown out by the club and looked after, which was just great. My good mates, Sam McPaike and Kyle Lyons, from home came over and I chilled out with them prior to playing, which also helped.
“I remember I got five or so stitches in my cheek, I came off, went under the tunnel and they did a quick job. I went straight back out and played. My face blew up but it was mighty. I was playing against and rubbing shoulders with players I used to look up to, and putting them on the ground — quite surreal.”
Griffin says the Melbourne Storm club is like a “big, happy family” and is a positive environment, complemented by great coaching and training staff and great camaraderie.
“I have played five games for the Storm in the NRL. Craig (Bellamy) is pretty happy with me and wants me to learn my craft off Smithy. Cameron Smith is a great fellow, very low key, and I sit back and watch him. He’s an inspirational player, a great captain and when he talks, everyone listens. He keeps eye contact with the players and they listen to him, he leads by example and is pretty down to earth.
“Craig is a great coach and he looks for players who are mentally tough, players who will roll up their sleeves and give 100% for their team.
“There is a great culture at the club and it is very family orientated. When I first came across to Melbourne one of the toughest things adapting to was the culture of training. The first six weeks was the toughest six weeks of my life,” Griffin said.