When Hull FC finally lift the lid on their new Super League campaign against Huddersfield Giants at Headingley later this month, Josh Griffin will hit a milestone he never quite expected to make.
The veteran centre will notch up his one-hundredth official appearance for the Airlie Birds if he plays, becoming the latest player to join a select group of club legends across the summer era, and he admits – after a pandemic-blighted campaign – he’s happy to finally get over the line.
“If it weren’t for Covid-19, I’d have got there earlier,” he says.
“To settle down somewhere, and get a hundred games under your belt, is obviously a massive achievement.”
It means a lot to Griffin, a threequarter-line cornerstone for the Black and Whites since his arrival from Salford in 2017, to become a club centurion. The Oxfordshire-born middle sibling of three Rugby League brothers, alongside former Huddersfield man Darrell and Castleford forward George, he had wondered if he would ever find a club to flourish with after bouncing around Huddersfield, Castleford and Wakefield in his earlier years before switching codes.
“At the start of my career, I didn’t do what I wanted to at a few places, to play the game,” he acknowledges.
“When I came back from rugby union, I didn’t know what was next. I was close to giving it up completely.”
He credits Bradford coach John Kear, then in charge of Batley in 2014 when Griffin curtailed a spell with Leeds Carnegie, as helping him put his best foot forward.
“I asked if I could do some training, to see if I enjoyed it still,” he recalls.
“I went there because John was there.”
Griffin had provisionally put pen to paper on a move to Queensland with Redcliffe Dolphins, but his performances at Mount Pleasant were enough to catch the eye of Salford, who offered him a trial.
“I was training with them during the week and playing with the Bulldogs at the weekend,” he reflects.
“It paid off.”
Six years and a Challenge Cup triumph later, it’s hard to argue against that. At 30, Griffin is in the prime of his career and he’s hoping to add more silverware to his collection this season, under the guidance of new coach Brett Hodgson, a player he briefly featured alongside at Huddersfield in his early years.
“He’s come in as a breath of fresh air,” says Griffin.
“He was a big influence on my career when I was younger. He’s brought new ideas in and he’s good.”
Griffin admits that the pandemic has presented problems with preparations for the new season.
“The body’s peaking a little more than it used to, now I’m older,” he explains.
“All the protocols mean you’re not afforded as much recovery time as you’re used to in pre-season.”
Could this year be Hull’s for the taking?
Griffin doesn’t see why not, and he’s determined to help shed the same old expectations of mid-table mediocrity.
“As a club, we’ve still got the tag of a sleeping giant,” he says.
“But we’ve got new self-belief this year. Hopefully we can get there and be genuine contenders.”
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