AS is always the case, Josh Griffin’s dad will not be far from his thoughts when the Hull FC centre takes to the field tomorrow.
It is four years since he died unexpectedly from a heart attack, an experience Griffin has recollected this week ahead of Super League’s Wellbeing Round.
He played just a few days later for Salford Red Devils, alongside his brothers George and Darrell at Magic Weekend in Newcastle, but never truly dealt with the emotion of it all.
It was only later that he sought help to deal with matters that were getting on top of him.
With the competition’s Tackle The Tough Stuff campaign now highlighting the most pressing issues in men’s mental health, the 29-year-old is urging people who are struggling to speak out.
“It was the worst experience of my life losing dad all of a sudden,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“I remember getting the phone call at three in the morning. We’d been in the hospital for four days and the last message I had was the nurse saying he was doing really well and she thought he’ll get through this. “We left thinking he would be all right but got home and got that phone call which saw us rush back.
“Then, we got told that he had passed away.
“We played just four days later. At the time, we said we wanted to do that as it was the first time the three of us had ever all played together.
“We wanted to do that for him but looking back now it was probably too soon.”
The former Wakefield Trinity and Huddersfield Giants player explained: “I’d not slept properly all week, my emotions were all over but getting back into the swing of things did help.
“I was back in training two days later and it helped getting some fresh air and running around a bit.
“Rugby helped me escape for a bit but when I stepped away from that that’s when it hurt more and I struggled more.
“I spoke to Gaz Carvell, our Player Welfare Manager at the time, and he put me in touch with someone who could help.
“Speaking definitely helped, I needed to get things off my chest.
“This Wellbeing round has come at a good time to remind people of mental health and raising awareness, not just in our sport but for men in any sport and life in general.
“Men need to speak more about their emotions rather than bottling things up.”
On the field, Hull are in need of an improvement against London Broncos tonight after seeing a recent purple patch ended with back-to-back defeats at Hull KR and against St Helens.
Lee Radford’s side remain in third place but can ill-afford many more performances like that against leaders Saints when they wasted numerous chances, dropped far too much ball and were then blown away as fatigue understandably set in.
Griffin conceded: “It’s been our problem for the last couple of weeks; we can’t keep hold of the ball.
“We’re a better team when we just go forward but we’ve been trying to go sideways recently. It’s not been working.
“We completed at 48 per cent against St Helens. You’re always going to get hurt doing that against a side as good as them but we’ve learned some lessons.
“We’ve had our telling off and we’ll look to hit back with a win on Thursday.”
London had shown their quality, pulling off bottom with three successive wins before falling at Castleford and then 36-6 at home to Warrington Wolves.
Admittedly, their record against Hull is not good; the East Yorkshire club are undefeated in the last 10 meetings with the side, last losing at Magic Weekend in Edinburgh in 2010 when Broncos were known as Harlequins.
Griffin said: “They have their own issues trying to avoid relegation.
“But they are a very good team, very enthusiastic, very fit and play with a lot of energy.
“If we cough up as much ball as we have done the last two weeks we’re in for a long night.
“We know we have to get winning again. We’ve had a few slip-ups and Wigan have hit some really good form.
“They’re creeping up on us and there’s a lot of teams around that top-five.
“We need to keep knocking off some wins to get our season back on track.”