Broncos lifeline for PNG journeyman
He's been given glimpses of life in the NRL at four separate clubs over the past decade but Papua New Guinea international Rod Griffin says he's never been in a better position to finally make his NRL dream come true.
Griffin is just one of dozens of players across the 16 NRL clubs who have been invited to do all the hard work through an NRL pre-season with no guarantees of a first grade spot at the end of it but few have been on a journey such as Griffin's.
Having moved to Australia from Papua New Guinea when just three years of age with his mother and his "ranga Aussie" stepdad whom he calls his father, Griffin caught the eye of Cowboys scouts as a teenager and has spent the past 12 years looking for an opportunity to play in the NRL.
The Wests Tigers, Raiders and Titans each had a look at the power-packed Gorden Tallis fan but it has been the coaching of brothers Ben and Shane Walker at the Ipswich Jets that has him poised to win over Wayne Bennett and a spot at the Broncos.
The Walkers stripped 10 kilograms from his frame and moulded him into an 80-minute middle forward capable of hitting as hard in the 79th minute as he does in the first before suggesting to the Broncos that he was worth having a look at.
At this stage Griffin gets just one day a week to impress the Brisbane coaching staff of his qualities but for a 27-year-old still driven to reach the big time, that's all the opportunity he could ever ask for.
"In a way it's a doorstep to something better hopefully down the track but personally just being here around the likes of [Justin] Hodges and 'Macca' (Andrew McCullough) for one day a week, every time I come here it's still hard to believe but it's a good buzz," Griffin said.
"The opportunity's there, I've just got to have another good season like I did last season and if I get a call-up or whatever happens down the track I'd be more than willing to chuck the boots on.
"I didn't want to say anything to anyone in case it fell through because I've been let down so many times before so I didn't want to get ahead of myself, just let it play out and see what happens. I started coming to training and then it kicked in, that I was actually doing it."
As well as four previous trials with NRL clubs, Griffin has accumulated an impressive footy jumper collection with stints at Intrust Super Cup clubs Wynnum Manly, Northern Pride, Tweed Heads and now Ipswich and credits the Walker boys for getting him NRL-ready.
After he completed high school in Atherton in North Queensland and a stint in the Cowboys academy system failed to lead to greater opportunities, Griffin headed to Brisbane to link with Wynnum.
That move came with it the possibility of a dual contract with his beloved Broncos but Griffin instead chose to pursue a firmer offer from the Wests Tigers, the bright lights of Sydney finally getting the better of him after two and a half years.
"I was in the system with the Wests Tigers and I was going good with everything but just the lifestyle down there, living by yourself, everything's really fast," Griffin said.
"For someone from the country, to be put in a situation like that, living by yourself... Living in a share house is all right and then a year after that you have to fend for yourself and I'm more about the family influence so it took a bit of a toll.
"I was going out all the time so I just had to get back home and get myself back together so I moved back up to Cairns and played with the Pride and matured a bit.
"I'm in a better mind space than I was when I was in Sydney, more mature. When I was in Sydney, it was hard to take stuff in with all the lights, especially being from the country, it's just all in your face.
"Thinking back to a boy back home, if he gets a chance like this he wouldn't let it go so I'm just trying to make the most of it."
Granted time off from his day job as a warehouse manager with Young Guns Container Crew to pursue his dream of playing for the Broncos, Griffin is faced with a tough challenge of breaking into a Brisbane back-row rotation that is laden with internationals.
Physically he would stand proudly alongside any player in the NRL and although he knows this may be his last shot at reaching the game's pinnacle, in the presence of Wayne Bennett the shy kid from Cairns still wonders how his extraordinary journey has led to this point in time.
"It's hard, that's Wayne Bennett, you can't really say much," Griffin said of Bennett's influence. "He's approached me once and had a good yarn to me and I didn't know what to say to him but he's got a bit of a cheeky side to him too which is good, it makes you feel more comfortable around him.
"I'm just feeding off blokes like 'Hodgo'. Just being in their presence you want to become a better player.
"It is pretty tough when you have sessions like this but at the end of the day it's good just being here. I'm not really complaining, I'll do whatever. I can only train and see what happens at the end of the pre-season."