Interview: Josh Griffin is licenced to thrill in family showdown

Josh Griffin.
Josh Griffin.
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There is little fear Josh Griffin will have trouble securing his next Super League contract.

A man who freely admits doubting whether he could cut the grade in the professional game, and had plenty telling him he would not, is suddenly in a far better bargaining position.

A few months ago a deal he had completed disappeared in a second when it was announced Crusaders would not be gaining a licence.

At that point, Griffin was a Wakefield Trinity player so, as his colleagues celebrated their top-flight reprieve, he did not know whether to laugh or cry.

However, the burly wing earned a reprieve of his own as Ian Millward stepped in to make him his first capture for Castleford Tigers on a one-year contract.

What has occurred since is remarkable – rookie Griffin goes into tonight’s televised game against champions Leeds Rhinos as Super League’s top scorer with six tries in just four outings to lay claim as an early contender for signing of the season.

It is all a far cry from those days in Huddersfield Giants’ Academy when he thought the road to a career in the sport could be blocked forever with the likes of Leroy Cudjoe, Michael Lawrence and Jermaine McGillvary all forging ahead.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, the 21-year-old said: “I couldn’t have asked for a better start.

“I scored five in 19 games with Wakefield last year so I’ve got more than that already.

“The main thing is the team, though, and we have to get the performance on the park right. Hopefully, we’ll start this week against Leeds.

“It is nice, though, to find some consistency personally and show people what I can do.

“I struggled to get in the team at Huddersfield and did get a bit low there.

“I actually asked to go out on loan to Wakefield and got a bit of pressure with people telling me I’d get swept under the rug if I didn’t make it this time.

“I put pressure on myself and I always felt if I could get a run I’d show what I could do.

“Wakefield helped me get my name out there a little and now it’s going great at Cas’.”

It just shows how things can change in such a short space of time.

Recalling that morning last July when the licence decision was made, Griffin revealed: “I remember watching on Sky Sports and just being shocked.

“I felt like I’d been hung out to dry. I’d not had a phone call or anything from Crusaders.

“I’d already signed for them back in January before I knew anything about Wakefield.

“But then I was sat there with the Wakey boys just not knowing what to think.

“Everyone was celebrating but it was strange for me as I knew I didn’t have a club for this year.

“A lot of fans found out afterwards and I got a lot of stick for it but then Cas’ came in.”

Millward saw Griffin’s hulking presence out wide – he stands at six feet and weighs almost 16 stone – as something he wanted to bring to the Tigers side he inherited from Terry Matterson.

The addition has paid immediate dividends, the Oxford-born player showing some quality finishing through not just power but pace as well.

There has, however, been no major surgery done to his game to reap such rewards.

“Cas’ have always been able to score tries; they’ve long been an attacking side but we struggled with that at Wakefield last year,” explained Griffin.

“Cas’ have got Rangi Chase and Danny Orr who like to play off the cuff and I just get on the back of that.”

It is interesting to note that he did not even play rugby league until he was 16 years old.

“I was 14 when I moved up here from Oxford but I carried on playing rugby union,” he explained.

“I was never really interested in league and played for Sandal instead. I scored two tries as a centre in the Under-16s Yorkshire Cup final.

“But then I went down to Stanley Rangers and gave it a go.”

His coach at the amateur Wakefield club was brother Darrell, the more famous Griffin sibling and England prop who earned his own move to Leeds from Huddersfield last winter.

That means they face each other this evening and the Castleford player, who scored a hat-trick in defeat at Catalan, admitted: “It’ll be good as it’s on Sky and so all the family down in Oxford will get to watch.

“The only other time I played him was last year for Wakefield at Huddersfield.

“We always say we’ll try and stay away from each other but the first thing I did then was have a run at him so I’m sure he’ll try and get me on Friday.

“It’s hard for him to get out to the wing, though.”

Castleford, of course, are continuing to battle on without Millward after the tragic death of his teenage son Robbie almost two weeks ago. They lost at home to Wigan on Sunday, Griffin typically scoring their only points in a 46-4 defeat, and he admitted: “I don’t think people realise how much it hit us last week.

“I know I didn’t realise how much it affected me until I saw Ian’s wife and dad walk out onto the pitch beforehand,

“But the boys have come around more now. It’s still strange not having him around here but we’re more used to it and getting on with things.”

The funeral is today and acting head coach Stuart Donlan has been in touch with Millward who said he may return to work in a week or so.

In the meantime, Castleford look to end a three-match losing run tonight but are fully aware of the size of the task ahead.

“It’s a big one,” said Griffin, who hopes to extend his contract in the next few weeks.

“Leeds are our big rivals and are coming off the World Club Challenge win. We’ve had a hard start with Catalan away, Wigan and now Leeds – so the fixture list hasn’t been kind but I think the fans understand that.”

And those supporters also know the club have unearthed a gem.