When you think about the perfect away day, Derwent Park and the Recreation Ground probably aren’t the first stadiums that spring to mind.
But for Darrell Griffin, the prospect of traveling up to Cumbria is something that invigorates him.
The 35-year-old is a new signing at Fev for 2016 after joining from Salford Red Devils. His departure from Salford brought an end to a mammoth 14-year career in the top flight of Rugby League following spells at Leeds and Huddersfield among others.
As a result, the opportunity to travel to some of the country’s lesser known grounds has been sparse, with Griffin more accustomed to playing in front of thousands rather than hundreds.
However, Griffin has revealed that the opportunity to play at new grounds such as Dewsbury’s Tetley’s Stadium and Oldham’s Bower Fold was one factor in him dropping down to the Championship despite having a year remaining on his contract at Salford.
“I’m genuinely really excited,” he told TotalRL.
“I’ve played at all the Super League grounds time and time again for the last 14 years. But now I know I’m going to be going up to Workington and Whitehaven, grounds I’ve never played at before. Going up to these places really excites me.
“I’ve played at Batley before on the hill and that’s a really tough place to play, but all the Championship grounds are hostile environments.
“I’m looking forward to the grounds I’ve never played at, just having that new Rugby League experience is really appealing to me.”
Griffin’s first chance to play at a new ground will be on February 20th when Rovers travel to Whitehaven’s Recreation Ground. In the meantime, he is spearheading the team’s preparations for the new season that is looming ever nearer.
His first venture into the Championship signals the start of the latter-end of his career. However, instead of dreading the day his career comes to an end, Griffin is relishing the opportunity to put plans in place for life after Rugby League. He recently started an electrician course to help him prepare for life away from the field and will remain on the course throughout the season.
That, of course, doesn’t mean Griffin is taking his eye off the ball on the paddock.
“The team looks really sharp and the coaches have done a great job. The skill level has really taken me by surprise.
“I don’t mean it in a disrespectful manner, because I haven’t played at Championship level before, but even the young lads are of a really good standard. They got a few games under their belts last year when Jon came in. When those lads are put in the frontline 17 they will step up, it’s really like a full-time Super League squad in that respect.
“The standard, the skill levels and the enthusiasm mean we’re flying at the moment. We’re not one of the full-time outfits but I think we can surprise a couple of them.”
Following an underwhelming 2015, Rovers were written off ahead of the upcoming campaign early on. But after an impressive recruitment drive, with the likes of Michael Channing, Misi Taulapapa and Anthony Thackeray joining Griffin at Fev, pundits have started to back them as top four contenders.
It’s nice praise according to Griffin, but not something that will change their approach to the year.
“We’re not going to come out and say we’re going to win this and that,” he said.
“Every team wants to win the league but we have a realistic chance of making the top four. It’s going to be difficult but we have set some expectations and we want to finish in the top four, in that Middle Eights anything can happen.
“It will be very difficult with those full-time teams, but we’re quietly confident. We know we are building, we showed against Cas what we can do in the second-half and we had Wakey in all sorts of trouble in the first-half before they pinched the game in the last few minutes. The improvement the team made in those few hit-outs was brilliant.”