Hull FC v Catalans Dragons - It’s Griffin versus Folau, and for once it is worth the hype

AS Super League’s stand-out player so far this season, Hull FC’s Josh Griffin has every reason to fear nothing as he goes up against Israel Folau tomorrow.

Josh Griffin.

It should be a fascinating battle between the opposing centres and, for once, one that is actually worth all the hype.

Ever since it was announced last month Folau was returning to rugby league with Catalans Dragons, there has been a largely unwarranted media circus following his every move.

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It has been unrelenting. Everyone has an opinion.

However, as the former dual-code Australia international lines up at KCOM Stadium, there will now be genuine reason to keep eyes not just on him but his impressive rival, too.

Griffin was Hull’s player of the year last season and has arguably taken his game to another level in the opening four games this time around.

Heading into this weekend, no one had made more metres (607), tackle busts (30) or clean breaks (eight) and the dynamic three-quarter has also weighed in with two tries and a couple of assists.

It is no surprise he is – not for the first time – being touted as a potential England player and it could be argued facing Folau would be as good a test of his international pedigree as possible outside of an actual Test match.

Asked about what the former State of Origin star brings that is different, Griffin said: “He’s got that physical side of him.

“He has some good footwork but it’s probably his aerial threat more than anything.

“He has that AFL background and was a rugby union full-back so he’s very good in the air and they are kicking to him a lot. I’ve not followed his career too much. I don’t follow rugby union, especially in Australia.

“I’ve obviously seen him internationally and how good he is and he’s a big old boy as well so it should be a good contest.

“He’s on the right and I’ve been playing left. He’s a world class player and I enjoy a challenge. I’ve looked at a bit of video this week but I’d like to think he’ll be worried about me as well. That’s the way I go into each game; I don’t dwell on that or look at the competition much.”

Griffin, 29, admits he has been driven on to improve further after the club re-signed fellow centre Mahe Fonua from the NRL and feels he is now in the best form of his career.

“There’s been a lot of speculation about where I was going to play,” he said.

“There’s competition for places and even though I came into the season as the current player of the year I was probably the one that probably had the most pressure on him.

“This is the first pre-season in a few years where I’ve not had to carry an injury and I made sure I just turned up every day and worked as hard as I could. Thankfully I’m seeing the benefits of it.

“I probably thrive off pressure. When there’s a bit of doubt, I like to prove people wrong.”

Many thought Griffin deserved England recognition last year but was continually overlooked by Wayne Bennett,

Nevertheless, Shaun Wane is now in charge, with the Kangaroos arriving in the autumn, and he has seen the player in action in each of the last two weeks.

“I go in every year wanting to do that (gain England selection),” added the former Huddersfield Giants and Wakefield player.

“The last few years, starting when I was at Salford, I was tipped for England but that’s all it has ever been – tipped.

“I’ve never quite made that leap. Obviously if I get the call I’ll be over the moon and very proud but I’m not going to beat myself up again if I don’t make it either.

“I want to be the best I can for Hull FC.”

And currently Hull need more performers like him; after beating Leeds Rhinos and Hull KR they have disappointed in defeats against St Helens and Wigan.

Griffin said: “We had a great start with that Leeds win; that’s the standard we should be playing every week.

“We got a good win against KR but we’ve fallen short since. We’ve been in the game at half-time and for some reason not come out second half. That’s something we have to learn about very quickly.”

“We have some players back this week so we should be heading in the right direction.”

Whoever comes in, with Albert Kelly and Manu Mau back, one player who will not be omitted is Josh Griffin. That talk is silenced.