Griffin vows to go down swinging
In the cut-throat, results-driven business that is coaching in the National Rugby League, sacked Broncos mentor Anthony Griffin knows a premiership in 2014 won't save his job but that it would be a hell of a way to go out.
The Broncos made the announcement on Monday afternoon that Griffin would not see out the final year of his contract in 2015 and that the club would go back to the future in appointing foundation coach Wayne Bennett on a three-year deal starting from next year.
Bennett announced less than two weeks ago that he would end his tenure as coach of Newcastle after a tumultuous 2014 season and ever since the rugby league rumour mill has been in overdrive speculating on his next move.
The two NRL clubs Bennett has taken to premierships, Brisbane and St George Illawarra, were always considered front-runners to lure the master coach back into the fold with a Broncos boardroom decision over the weekend opening the way for a return home after six years spent in Wollongong and Newcastle.
He will inherit a playing group laden with senior representative stars, emerging youngsters and a number of high profile recruits from a coach still very intent on leaving on the best possible note.
CEO Paul White, when advised of the decision made by the board, broke the news to his close friend on Sunday, the pair joking that the response – to borrow a line from Charlie Sheen in 'Major League' – was "to win the whole damn thing".
"It would be unreal," Griffin said of the possibility of a 2014 premiership with a side currently sitting within two points of the top four.
"We've got a young halfback who at this stage looks close to being Dally M Player of the Year, we've got some experienced guys that are going well, we're really building to be successful.
"You see the way Dale Copley played the other night, that's not a fluke, that's someone that's been in our system and been what we're about for four or five years and this group's just going to keep getting better and better.
"I could walk out now but I'm not going to do that. There were some guys I had to give a cuddle, the two captains were very strong, might have been a couple cheering but I'm a realist and understand there are going to be decisions made about you.
"Saturday night just proved to everyone that there is nothing wrong with this place. If we were down on character and culture and all the things you want in a football team and a football club, that would have been shown out on Saturday night, particularly after the way we started.
"That's my main message, that there's nothing wrong with the place. It's been set up to succeed; if we were running second last and it was an unhappy club I'd put me hand up but the place is going fine, it's going to be successful. I've done my bit.
"We've got the team into a very good position this year and we've got a fantastic opportunity over the next 10-12 weeks."
Having guided the inaugural Broncos under-20s team to the grand final in 2008, Griffin was thrust into the position of head coach when Ivan Henjak was sensationally sacked a month prior to the start of the 2011 season.
With Darren Lockyer as his skipper Griffin took the Broncos to within one win of a grand final but has enjoyed a winning percentage of just 48 per cent in the three years since, numbers that eventually led to his demise.
"The board has made the decision based on the results of the last couple of years. In my view some of those results simply have not fallen our way as we would have wished and as tough as this decision's been I accept that decision, as does Anthony," White said.
"The club's in a real strong position and to our members and supporters, the results haven't always gone our way but if you can just believe in the integrity of the processes and the people within this organisation I think you will have faith that whoever is coaching our team will do a good job.
"It's fair to say there was probably timing issues," White added when asked whether the recent three-match losing streak worked against Griffin. "They did make it clear that performance over the last couple of years wasn't where they wanted it to be and it's no more clandestine than that."